‘Lion King’ good show for kids

Rais­ing Austin

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - Con­tin­ued from Con­tact Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando at 912-5900.

horn­bill who is the king’s ad­viser. “They let the ex­pe­ri­ence take them over.”

Then a funny thing hap­pens af­ter the show, Ka­plan says. Some­times, he gets to meet young au­di­ence mem­bers, and they don’t rec­og­nize that he was the one who was on stage, even if he has the Zazu pup­pet. They think it isn’t real peo­ple be­hind the pup­pets or they think it isn’t be­ing done live. “They’ll say, ‘I just saw you in the movie,’ ” he says. “And I’ll say, ‘I was there!’ ”

“The Lion King,” which re­turns to Bass Con­cert Hall from Jan. 16 through Feb. 10, is a great way to in­tro­duce chil­dren to a big Broad­way pro­duc­tion. Be­fore you buy tick­ets, know that Tues­day through Satur­day evening shows start at 8 p.m. and “The Lion King” is a two-hour-and30-minute show. I’ve wit­nessed my 9-year-old, who loved “Mary Pop­pins” and “Wicked,” nod off around the sec­ond act, only to be mad that she missed it af­ter she woke up. If you’re bring­ing ele­men­tary-age or younger kids, opt for Satur­day or Sun­day mati­nees or try the Sun­day night shows, which start at 6:30 p.m.

There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about pup­petry. In “The Lion King,” they range in size from a mouse to one as big as an elephant.

The ac­tors are hired for their act­ing abil­ity. They go through in­ten­sive train­ing for four weeks on how to work the pup­pet be­fore they ever hit the stage, Reilly says, then it’s an­other six months of train­ing to per­fect it.

Zazu is con­trolled by four levers. One op­er­ates his mouth, one helps him fly and two op­er­ate his ex­pres­sive eyes. “It takes at least three weeks to make it feel like you’re mak­ing it all work,” Ka­plan says.

The way the ac­tor moves is also key. Ka­plan has to make Zazu look like he’s fly­ing, even though Ka­plan is still on the ground. The en­ergy that a pup­pet will have is all about the amount of en­ergy that flows from the ac­tor, Ka­plan says.

It can be phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing, even though the pup­pets are made to be light with the il­lu­sion of be­ing sub­stan­tive. “I do feel some kind of at­tach­ment to them,” Reilly says. “I can spend some­thing like nine hours in one day on a cer­tain char­ac­ter and then some­one goes on stage and treats the pup­pet like a sledge­ham­mer, not be­cause they want to, but be­cause that’s their job in bring­ing them to life. They do what­ever they have to do to ac­com­plish that.”

Both Reilly and Ka­plan have spent time at zoos ob­serv­ing how live an­i­mals move. “Any­time I’m at a zoo, I look for a horn­bill,” Ka­plan says. And you know what they both find? A lot of lions named Simba.

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