BOSTON (CBS) — Disney’s The Lion King is unlike any other musical on the stage today. Over the past 22 years, the show’s innovative approach to creating the animal characters has been thrilling audiences around the world.
Actors use puppets to portray the animals, something that takes a lot of practice and skill.
Tony Freeman has been with Lion King for 19 years, and with this touring production, he’s the standby for Zazu, Scar, Timon and Pumba.
He said actors are used to just using their faces as a mode of expression, so acting through a puppet takes a lot of work in front of the mirror.
Every day, Puppet Master Michael Reilly and his team go over each of the 230 puppets to make sure they’re in perfect condition.
And once they are, the actors take over, using strings and levers, and electronic switches to bring the puppets to life.
Lion King performers get twice as long as most actors do to prepare for their roles, to help build muscle memory.
Freeman said, “because when muscle memory takes over, your brain can go back to normal actor things. All of those things you can’t even think about because you’re going, how long has it been since I blinked his eyes? After you’ve drilled it, drilled it, and drilled it, then your brain can go back to acting. ”
Some members of the ensemble play multiple roles, requiring more than a dozen costume changes throughout the show.
It’s all designed to create an experience the audience will never forget.
The Lion King plays at the Citizen’s Bank Opera House through Oct. 27.