Lion King actress, 11, loses leukemia fight
The house lights were dimmed at the 7 p.m. performance of “The Lion King” last night to mourn the death of one of the show’s youngest stars: 11-year-old Shannon Tavarez died of leukemia Monday.
Tavarez, a Queens resident and a soprano, played the young Nala in the show. Doctors hoped a cord-blood transplant Tavarez received in August would save her, but were unsuccessful.
Doctors, the AP reported, were unable to find a perfect bone marrow match for Tavarez — in part because of her African-American and Hispanic ancestry. Minority and mixed ancestry donors are underrepresented as potential donors in national registries.
Taverez’s illness attracted celebrity attention, from Alicia Keys to Rihanna and 50 Cent who campaigned to help her find a donor. Over 8,000 people signed up nationwide as bone-marrow donors, but a match could not be found.
“She was a wonderful person, always bright and lively and happy,” said someone who worked closely with Tavarez at the Minskoff Theatre in midtown, but who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s very sad, especially when a child that age passes.”
Broadway lost a young actress that could have gone far, he said.
“She had that within her.”