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Samuel E. Wright, the legendary voice of Sebastian the Crab in “The Little Mermaid” and Mufasa in Broadway’s “The Lion King,” died Tuesday at his home in Walden, New York. He was 74.
His passing from prostate cancer was confirmed on the official Facebook page of Montgomery, New York.
“Today, the Town of Montgomery mourns the loss of Sam Wright,” they wrote. “Sam was an inspiration to us all and along with his family established the Hudson Valley Conservatory.”
The tribute continued, “As we say goodbye to a pillar in our community and ask everyone to share a memory and help us celebrate the life of this great man.”
Wright garnered international acclaim for his part in the 1989 Disney classic “The Little Mermaid,” in which earned an Oscar for the iconic musical number “Under the Sea.” The actor played Ariel’s faithful sidekick, Sebastian the crab — a role he reprised in spinoffs such as “The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea” and the “House Of Mouse.”
Born Camden, South Carolina in 1946, Wright got his start on Broadway, starring in legendary productions including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1971, and earned his first Tony Award nomination for 1984’s “The Tap Dance Kid.” He earned his second for his role as Mufasa in the original Broadway production of “The Lion King” in 1998.
Along with his illustrious theater career, Wright appeared in various hit TV shows, including “All My Children,” “The Cosby Show,” “Spencer For Hire” and “Jonny Zero.” He also had a memorable turn as jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood’s 1988 Charlie Parker biopic “Bird.”
Wright’s crestfallen fans and admirers flooded Twitter with tributes following his passing.
The New Amsterdam Theatre — home of The Lion King: Musical” — paid homage on its marquee, “Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. Rest In Peace, Samuel E. Wright | 1946 – 2021 Original Broadway Cast, Mufasa.”
Author Malorie Blackman also offered her condolences: “RIEP Samuel E. Wright. Your song Kiss The Girl from The Little Mermaid is one of my favourites from any musical ever.”
Wright is survived by his wife Amanda and children Keely, Dee and Sam.
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