IN just 12 years, Graeme Purcell has gone from Miller Public School captain to prince of the jungle. The 24-year-old has been selected as the understudy for Simba in the upcoming production of The Lion King, due to premiere at the Capitol Theatre on December 5.
For Purcell, the role is reward for almost two decades of hard work.
"I've always wanted Simba and I've always wanted to be in The Lion King," he said. "I think it's one of the greatest roles a male could have in the musical theatre industry.
"The first audition was on January 15 this year and I didn't find out I got the role until June or July."
Purcell made it into the top six of television show So You Think You Can Dance (season one).
He was selected for his first professional musical production, Oliver, when he was aged 12.
"I played Dipper, one of Fagin's gang, and also played one of the orphan boys," he said.
As a result of Oliver, he made the move from south-west Sydney into the city.
Since then his career has also taken him to America — where he was due to go again until The Lion King came calling.
While he may be grounded in Sydney for the short term, Purcell still harbours dreams of forging a name for himself on the international stage.
"I think you have to when given an opportunity like this because I don't want it to be The Lion King and then boom, that kind of come-down," he said.
"I definitely want to use The Lion King to boost my career whether that be an opportunity to represent Disney elsewhere in the world or pursue my music career. I've always wanted to get out of the little bubble of Australia and go to London or New York."