Puppets come to life as popular Broadway play makes a stop
by: COURTESY OF Joan Marcus, 
Phindile Mkhize stars as “Rafiki” in the Broadway Across America production of the Lion King, at the Keller Auditorium until July 11.

Plenty of people have watched, both on the big screen and on stage, as Simba emerges as king of the jungle in the coming-of-age epic 'The Lion King.'

Portlanders get another opportunity to watch the tale of Simba. 'The Lion King' will be staged in Portland for nearly a month, debuting Wednesday, June 16 and running through July 11 at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay Ave., presented by Fred Meyer Broadway Across America.

It's the third stop on a 12-city North American tour. Tickets, starting at $23.25, can be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets and by calling the Portland Opera box office at 503-241-1802.

The musical, based off the 1994 Disney animated film and directed and designed by Julie Taymor and featuring the music of Elton John, had been deemed too complicated and extensive to be produced on stage. Taymor worked magic with costumes, African masks and puppets and, 13 years and 50 million audience members later, it's still going strong.

The role of 'Young Simba' is alternated between Jerome Stephen, Jr. and Elijah Johnson. Other cool facts about 'The Lion King':

• It's been translated into five languages (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch).

• Two signature costumes have been inducted into the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

• Elton John, along with Tim Rice, won an Academy Award for the original soundtrack; Taymor was the first woman to win the Tony Award for 'Best Direction of a Musical,' in 1998.

• There are more than 200 puppets in the show and 25 kinds of animals, birds, fish and insect depicted - including an 18-foot exotic giraffe, a five-inch trick mouse, 39 hyenas and 52 wildebeests.

- Jason Vondersmith

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