Aller is quick to credit theater and opera director Julie Taymor with devising an effective way to move "The Lion King" from the limitless world of animation to the limited world of live stage. "Julie lifted it up," Allers said. That lift was literal. Taymor's approach involved a novel application of masks and puppetry. Because a mask can only have one fixed expression, masks are positioned above the head of the performer; a human face, then, conveys the shifting emotions. The result is a communicative power to rival that in the movie. (That original power remains formidable, too; a remastered "Lion King" film was released this fall on Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D.) Taymor, lately in the news for the much-hyped, much-sniped-at "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" on Broadway (she was controversially fired from the production), had an imaginative collaborator for "The Lion King." Michael Curry worked with her as mask and puppet co-designer. "We made sure that the human performance was the focus, not a Disney animated character," Curry said. "We wanted to keep a heart and soul in the show." Over the years, casting for Broadway and the touring productions has gotten a little easier. More performers today are ready for the challenges of "The Lion King." "Actors used to be embarrassed to put puppetry on their resumes, Curry said. "Now it"s a big plus."
Joan Marcus, Handout photo