Image courtesy of ‘The Lion King’
By Josie Gudgeon
Over the weekend, I spent some time in London enjoying the fast pace and buzz of city life. However, the main reason for my visit was to enjoy one of my childhood favorite Disney stories of The Lion King. However, this time I was combining two of my passions Disney and musicals- these are a huge passion of mine and being a costume designer I thrive of watching shows all over the country being inspired by the enormous talent within the costume design industry and the whole cast production teams.
I truly believe clothing is an item that we put on our body; it can be as expressive as we desire. Clothing is typically made of fabrics and a variety of materials or textiles that have been combined together. The wearing of clothing is a feature that allows us to express all kind of emotions and enables us to be perceived from a different perspective.
The theatre is what really drew me into becoming a costume designer. I loved how the manipulation of fabric and materials can create garments, that express so much emotion to the audience and the detail within the costume transformed people to be perceived as new characters.
It’s a fact that there are not many people out there with a bad word to say about The Lion King. Whether you’re a super fan that knows every word to ‘The Circle Of Life’ or somebody who just quite likes the Disney animations, it’s a musical that transcends generations; full of that legendary Disney magic we all know and love. The 2020 UK tour of Disney’s The Lion King is celebrating the show’s 20th anniversary since its premiere in London. The live musical I saw in London at the Lyceum Theatre has been catching the audience, being seen by over 16million theatregoers. The Lion King is for everybody – lovers of big-budget family entertainment, theatre connoisseurs and everyone in-between. A show that could have easily been considered a kiddie musical. However, Julie Taymor used her innovative ability to create captivating works of art. From the oh-so-clever antelope ‘bicycle’ or the simple but hugely effective wildebeest stampede, drew adults to visit without a child in sight.
Julie Taymor’s is the costume and puppet designs for The Lion King. She has gone down in history for being the first women to win a Tony award for ‘Best Direction of a Musical.’ She steals the show with the design principals of 250 costumes from 25 different animal species, to a variety of plant species. Taymor work on the concept of what she calls the “double event”, whereby the actors are not hidden. The costumes evoke the animal characters while allowing the audience to experience the actors.
The captivating mask in the Lion King was designed by Julie Taymor and Micheal Curry, though they may look heavy from the audience it said that Mufasa’s mask weighs as little as 11 ounces and Scar’s is only 7 ounces. This is down to the mask being made from carbon fibre, a tough but lightweight material- allowing the actors to move around freely when wearing them. Carbon fibre is a material that is often used in the construction of formula one cars due to its strength to weight ratio.
However, the shows heaviest costume goes to the shows comical warthog, Pumbaa. His costume comes in at around 45 pounds (that’s 720 ounces to compare with the lion masks). The costume straps on like a backpack, allowing the weight to be distributed across the actor’s body.
Throughout a single performance, there are around 300 costume changes. All of these costumes require maintenance repairs during and between performances. It takes approximately 17,000 hours to build the masks and puppets for each production of the Lion King. This is a large time scale for the costume making, but this is no surprise due to many of the costumes being handmade and there is a grand total of 231 puppets in the show.
Not just on the stage but in our everyday life makeup is a design tool that supports every other design element. Within the theatre, makeup needs to be much bolder and has to withstand much harsher conditions i.e. sweating, harsh lights. Makeup is not premade like costumes and stage equipment. The makeup has to be applied to each performance. Overall, there are 100 different makeup looks with different requirements from allegories, tattoo cover-ups, and sweat gland specifics every individual has unique choices. But this isn’t any old makeup that you can buy at local high street stores. They use specially designed brushes and work with a French makeup company Maqpro. This ensures the products have all the properties they are looking for.
To capture the essence of the heritage of Africa at Pride Rock, six different native languages are spoken within the musical. These are Swahili, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana and Congolese. Ms Taymor States: “I felt very strongly that we had to have South Africans in it from the beginning.” And she has most certainly carried this out over the last two decades 263 south Africans have been distributed all over the world to lion king productions; often many having little formal training in singing or acting.
Although many of the clothing and fabric may look authentic to Africa. All of the cloth used is Taymor’s abstract versions of her inspiration from the African art and colour palettes.
Don’t worry you have not missed out on your chance to see the amazing work of Julie Taymor. The legendary West End Production of the Lion King is heading on tour to Yorkshire. Tickets for The Lion King Musical are available to book now; the shows are on 30th April 2020 – 20th June 2020 will be performed in Bradford Theater. If you are unable to make theses dates then don’t worry because the show will also be returning to Manchester from Oct 22nd 2020 – Jan 30th 2021.
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