Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Broadway Buzz: You Won't Believe What It Takes to Bring the Savannah to Life

When Disney's The Lion King premiered on Broadway in 1997, the production was unlike anything the Great White Way had seen before. Bringing an animated movie to life on stage was an incredible feat, and we wanted to share some fun facts with you about how the talented cast and crew will create this magic for every performance Feb. 3 - March 1, live in front of a crowd of thousands.

  • The original Broadway production's director and designers, including Julie Taymor, hand sculpted and painted every prototype for the masks you see on stage. Their department of skilled mask makers, sculptors, puppeteers and artisans spent 17,000 hours to build the anthropomorphic animal characters for the original Broadway production.
  • Each mask weighs just under 1 pound and is made of silicone rubber. Simba's mask weighs 7 ounces while Sarabi's weighs only 4 ounces, however 750 pounds of rubber were used to make all of the masks in the show.
  • Keep an eye out for the four 18-foot giraffes in "I Just Can't Wait to be King" -- they're the tallest animals in the production and are the same size as their real-life counterparts. Actors trained in stilt-walking climb 6-foot ladders to fit inside these colorful puppets.
  • The largest and longest animal is the elephant -- nicknamed Bertha -- at 13 feet long and 9 feet wide, and requiring four actors to maneuver. Children will especially enjoy her entrance on show night, so make sure you're watching the aisles.
  • The Timon meerkat puppet weight 15 pounds; Pumbaa's costume, worn like a backpack, weighs 45 pounds and is the heaviest outfit in the show.
  • The yearly upkeep and maintenance of the 20 Grasslands headdresses requires over 3,000 stalks of grass (roughly 60 pounds).
  • Worldwide, nearly 1,100 people are directly employed by The Lion King, including 20 whose sole mission is artistic upkeep of the show. On tour, there are 134 people directly involved with the daily production of the show.

Some quick facts and figures:

  • Puppets including rod puppets, shadow puppets and full-sized puppets:  200
  • Ants on the Ant-Hill Lady costume:  100
  • Wigs:  45
  • Wildebeests:  52
  • Hyenas:  39
  • Types of animals, birds, fish and insects represented in the show:  25
  • Gazelles:  15, five actors each wear a gazelle puppet on both arms and one affixed to their head.
  • Gazelles on the gazelle wheel prop:  6
  • Lionesses:  14 (Nala, Young Nala and 12 ensemble in the ‘Lioness hunt’).
  • Bird Kites:  12, featured in “One By One,” the opening number of Act II.
  • Bird Ladies:  5
  • Bird Man:  1
  • Simba representations:  6 (Baby Simba puppet, Young Simba-actor, Young Simba puppet, Simba Shadow puppet, Rafiki’s Simba painting-Act I & II, Adult Simba-actor).
  • Zebras:  3
  • Elephants:  2 (Bertha and the Baby Elephant)
  • Antelope:  2
  • Rhinoceros: 1
  • Cheetah: 1

There are six indigenous African languages spoken in the show:
  • Swahili
  • Zulu
  • Xhosa (the click language)
  • Sotho
  • Tswana
  • Congolese

The Lion King has been translated into eight languages:
  • Japanese
  • German
  • Korean
  • French
  • Dutch
  • Mandarin
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
We're honored to present this incredible work of art live on the Orpheum stage for a full month. Click here for a video sneak peek and information about tickets and showtimes.

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