After The Lion King burst into cinemas 20 years ago and dazzled audiences with its upbeat music, appealing animation and stirring coming-of-age story, it wasn't surprising that a stage adaptation was in the works, debuting just three years later.

The African savanna-set tale of lion cub Simba — who grows to become the king of the jungle — has since become one of most popular stage musicals in the world: seen by more than 70 million people, translated into eight different languages and staged on every continent except Antarctica.

"The movie came out when I was born," notes Nia Holloway, the actress portraying the lioness Nala on the show's current North American tour.

"Everybody loves The Lion King. There's no way you can't love it."

Holloway is the youngest actress ever to portray Nala — she was just 17 years old when she first landed the part of Simba's childhood best friend and eventual wife.

In the attached video, Holloway talks to CBC's Alice Hopton about her reaction to being cast and incorporating elements from her own life into the role.

The Lion King runs in Toronto through June 15 and in Montreal from Aug. 19-Sept. 7, continuing with U.S. dates through next spring.