PICTURED: Four princesses of Disney films and Broadway productions come together for an evening of songs and stories at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center. From left: Arielle Jacobs (Princess Jasmine, Aladdin), Susan Egan (Belle, Beauty and the Beast), Syndee Winters (Nala, The Lion King) and Anneliese van der Pol (Belle, Beauty and the Beast). Photo by Nathan Johnson

by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
christina@timespublications.com

Syndee Winters is in the business of inducing joy. 

She has made a living starring as royalty — as future queen Nala in Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway. 

Now she’s thrilling children and their families with “Disney Princess — The Concert,” which comes to the Bank of America Performing Arts Center on Feb. 19. 

Besides Winters, who lives in Culver City, the cast features Susan Egan, Broadway’s original Belle in Beauty and the Beast and Megara from Disney’s animated feature Hercules; Arielle Jacobs, Broadway’s Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and In the Heights’ Nina Rosario; and Disney Channel icon Anneliese van der Pol, star of That’s So Raven and Raven’s Home and Broadway’s final Beauty and The Beast Belle.

They’re joined by musical director Benjamin Rauhala and an enchanting prince, Adam J. Levy of Waitress.

The 90-minute concert features a new arrangement of Frozen 2 favorites “All is Found/Into the Unknown.” The medley, performed in four-part harmony by Egan, Jacobs, van der Pol and Winters and arranged by Rauhala, will be available for streaming and download.

Concertgoers — who are encouraged to dress up in their best royal attire — will also hear more than 30 favorite Disney Princess and Frozen songs like “Part of Your World,” “Let It Go,” “A Whole New World,” “Colors of the Wind” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” The princesses will share stories along with the songs, in front of a 40-foot LED screen backdrop.

“We had our world premiere in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and it was the first Disney concert to ever play Saudi Arabia,” Winters says. “It was setting a precedent.”

In particular, she is looking forward to performing “Shadowland” from The Lion King.

“It is my favorite Disney song,” she says. “‘Shadowland’ is what got me to my Broadway debut and it’s a very special song in my heart. I’m so glad that I get to perform this song. Benjamin Rauhala’s arrangements are iconic and beautiful. He’s very much part of the show.”

“Disney Princess — The Concert” has had a profound effect on its fans and Winters. 

“I get to see all the little girls dressed like their favorite princesses, moms singing along to the songs they grew up on,” she says. “A lot of the Disney princess songs are pretty much the soundtrack to our lives. When they sing the songs back to us it makes me feel really good. I get to be the vehicle for these lyrics and this message of encouragement and kindness.”

Arts aficionado

Winters’ Broadway experience is vast, with spots in Hamilton, The Lion King, Pippin, Jesus

“I feel like every chapter of my life since age 3 has had an element of Disney in it,” says Syndee Winters, who starred as Nala in the Broadway production of Disney’s The Lion King. Photo by Nathan Johnson

Chris Superstar and Motown the Musical.

On television, she’s been featured on NBC’s live Jesus Christ Superstar production, which starred John Legend, and as Ms. Smiley on Law & Order SVU, where she interrogated Lt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) on her parenting methods.

“The joke is you’re not a real New York actor until you land a spot on Law & Order as a dead person,” she says with a laugh. “It was a very meek opportunity in the show to play that. Mariska is a legendary actress and a queen of a person.”

As a recording artist, she has written and released several singles, EPs, and her debut Lena Horne-influenced jazz album Lessons: From a Lady. In addition, she lent her vocals to recordings by Snoop Dogg, Big Daddy Kane and Grandmaster Flash. She’s also an aspiring playwright: Winters’ latest writing project celebrates the life of Horne in a one-woman play with music entitled Lena: A Moment With a Lady. 

As if this wasn’t enough, Winters fulfilled her dream of teaching by founding the ROAR School, which helps aspiring performers develop their skills in singing, acting and auditioning. Winters also offers workshop opportunities for schools, colleges and organizations. The school name stands for the “four pillars” of its students, described as “resourceful, optimistic, authentic and reliant.”

Disney dreams

Winters’ interest in performing revealed itself early. As a child, she visited her mom’s beauty shop in Brooklyn, where she would entertain the customers with her singing. 

“They asked me, ‘Syndee, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ My mother, while she was curling someone’s hair, said, ‘Don’t you want to be a pediatrician?’ I didn’t even know how to spell that.’”

She quickly fell in love with all things Disney.

“I feel like every chapter of my life since age 3 has had an element of Disney in it,” she says. “On my Instagram, I did a little flashback of my visits to Disney World. Now to be able to say I’m a part of the Disney legacy as a princess makes me feel just in awe of life.

“Now, I get called Nala all the time. When I was on The Lion King tour, I was in New Orleans and I visited my co-star Jelani Remy,” she recalls. “His little niece heard my voice and said, ‘Nala.’ It was so cute and then we sat and watched The Princess and the Frog. I thought, ‘This is awesome’ and now I get to sing a song from The Princess and the Frog in Disney Princess — The Concert.”


Disney Princess — The Concert takes place on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the Fred Kavli Theatre of the Bank of America Performing Arts Center, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. For tickets and more information, call 805-449-2787 or visit bapacthousandoaks.com