Two-time Tony Award-nominated actor Samuel E. Wright also originated the Broadway role of Mufasa in The Lion King

By Glenn Garner
May 25, 2021 06:16 PM
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Samuel E. Wright, Sebastian the crab
Credit: Walter McBride/WireImage; Moviestore/Shutterstock

Samuel E. Wright, who was known for voicing Ariel's crab chaperone Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, has died. He was 74.

The news of the two-time Tony Award nominee's death was announced by the town of Montgomery, New York, where Wright resided with his family.

"Today, the Town of Montgomery mourns the loss of Sam Wright," a post on the town's Facebook page read, noting that Wright and his family founded the Hudson Valley Conservatory and referring to the late star as "a pillar in our community."

"Sam and his family have impacted countless Hudson Valley youth always inspiring them to reach higher and dig deeper to become the best version of themselves," the tribute continued. "On top of his passion for the arts and his love for his family, Sam was most known for walking into a room and simply providing PURE JOY to those he interacted with. He loved to entertain, he loved to make people smile and laugh and he loved to love."

As Sebastian, Wright sang "Under the Sea," which won Best Original Song and Best Original Score at the Academy Awards, and "Kiss the Girl," which was also nominated for Best Original Song. Wright later voiced Sebastian in Disney's House of Mouse, Mickeypalooza and two direct-to-video sequels of The Little Mermaid.

In addition to voicing Sebastian, Wright played Mufasa as part of the original Broadway cast of The Lion King. The role earned him his second Tony Award nomination in 1998. His first nomination was in 1984 for playing William in The Tap Dance Kid.

Heather Headley, who starred alongside Wright as Nala in Broadway's The Lion King, paid tribute to Wright on Twitter, Tuesday. "You may remember his beautiful voice as #Sebastian in #TheLittleMermaid," she wrote. "But he was our #Mufasa in @TheLionKing, and what a #king he was. And will always be. He Lives in Us... always!"

Wright's other Broadway credits include appearing in the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, as well as Pippin in 1972. He also played the Scarecrow, alongside Whitney Houston's Dorothy Gale, in the Apollo Theater's 1995 revival of The Wiz.

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Samuel E. Wright
Credit: Jim Spellman/WireImage

Wright appeared onscreen in The Cosby Show, Law & Order and the short-lived Dukes of Hazzard spin-off Enos, in addition to voicing Kron the Iguanodon in Disney's 2000 animated film Dinosaur.

The actor was born November 20, 1946 in Camden, South Carolina. He's survived by his wife Amanda Wright and their three children.