‘Lion King’ good show for kids
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.