September 19, 1949
Westchester, New York, U.S.
|The Lion King work|
Born in Westchester, New York, Sabella graduated from Westlake High School in Thornwood, New York. Sabella then went on to graduate from the University of Miami, where he studied at the Department of Theatre Arts and performed at the university's highly-regarded Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.
Sabella started his career with the Broadway musical production, The Robber Bridegroom, in 1976, and performed in Little Johnny Jones. His later stage appearances included successes such as Guys and Dolls (as Harry the Horse), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (as Lycus), Chicago (as Amos Hart; replacement), Man of La Mancha (as Sancho Panza), Curtains (as Sidney Bernstein), and Sweet Charity (as Herman).
His future Lion King costar and close friend Nathan Lane also starred in the revival of Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit.
After signing on to The Lion King, he and Nathan Lane were originally cast as Shenzi and Banzai (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin in the final movie). The filmmakers loved their performance, but thought the duo would be better as Timon and Pumbaa. Also, Sabella would reprise Pumbaa in nearly every appearance of the franchise including the movies, The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa, Disney's House of Mouse, and video games (such as Kingdom Hearts II).
After the success of The Lion King, he would later become close friends with Lane and Matthew Broderick. Sabella worked with Nathan Lane numerous times in films such as Mouse Hunt, The Producers (in a deleted scene also with Broderick) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the short-lived sitcom Encore, Encore, and a cameo appearance when Lane hosted Saturday Night Live (in which the two performed "Hakuna Matata").
Sabella and his wife, actress Lulie Newcomb Sabella, continually live in New York.