THE LION KING
Whether or not you’re one of the 100 million people worldwide who have apparently watched Disney’s The Lion King in its stage musical incarnation, the show’s stage performance is being taken around the country once again, with a lengthy stint in Cardiff booked for next summer. But before the show reaches the stage, it must be created. Each time, a new venue for the build is selected – this time, in in Cardiff Bay.
Local stage production company Bay Productions were tasked with creating the set. A team of 40 artists worked for three months, after nine months of planning, to create more than 25 sets, emulating the original 1997 set designs. Nothing is machine-made, as Disney theatre group production manager Spencer New explains. “Theatre is a human thing and this show has many elements of it that can only look like they’ve been built by humans.”
James Charlton, Scenic Art Manager at Bay Production, was tasked with deciding how to achieve each look. In a relatively young studio, only eight years old, the job is daunting. What rope should be used to transform Rafiki’s tree into an almost living thing? How should leaves be painted and attached for the jungle scenery? Wherever confusion lies, Richard Hudson’s original designs are used as an absolute guide, just as they are in set production companies across the world.
Just as important as the set everybody in the audience can see are the moving pieces behind the stage which make the show possible. Bay Productions are responsible for wardrobe boxes, frames for sets and much more never to see the light of day. There are enough moving parts to make your head spin, and that’s only what is made at Bay. Puppets and costumes are shipped in from all over the world, before everything is separated and loaded into trucks ready to travel to theatres across the country.
After a year of production, of planning and creating, the show is finally ready to be viewed by the outside world. However long and arduous, everyone agrees the work is worth it, for a production like The Lion King. Spencer New adds, “It’s funny, it’s that kind of show: everyone is attached to it and loves it.”
words ALEX KEENE
The Lion King, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Thurs 9 July – Sat 29 Aug 2020. Tickets: £22.50-£95. Info: 029 2063 6464 / www.wmc.org.uk