The Broadway production of “The Lion King” is spectacular in many ways, from the incredible music to the talented actors and sparkling, funny dialogue. But nothing is more amazing than the costumes.
If you haven’t seen the show, it’s hard to explain the costuming, which consists of wearable puppets designed to both allow the actor within to be seen and to create the illusion that there aren’t actors on the stage at all.
If you have seen it, however, you know how delightful of a visual experience the production is. But have you ever thought about the care and keeping of these elaborate costumes?
That’s where Gregory Young comes in. Young is the show’s wardrobe supervisor, the head of the team that oversees the laundering, storage and inventory of the “Lion King” costumes, as well as facilitates any needed repairs.
“We’re basically maintaining the costumes from the original show design,” Young says. “I have two assistants that travel with the show, and we always bring on techs in the cities where the tour stops.”
The latter point, he says, is the most difficult part of his job,
“Getting everybody up to speed as far as the maintenance of the show goes isn’t easy,” he says. “Just like everything is choreographed for the singing and dancing, we have sixteen techs we need to train. In New York, you have the same 16 dressers at every show. On tour, we’re retraining people every two or three weeks.”
It must not bother him too much, however; Young has been working with “The Lion King” since its inception, beginning on Broadway itself and continuing with its various tours. (Amazingly, he reports never having had a major wardrobe malfunction.)
“The show was different than I thought it was going to be,” he says. “I thought it would be a kids’ show, but it’s this amazing costume show. Definitely not your regular shirt, pants, and tie.”
Amazingly, Young says he never gets bored with the production despite his longevity.
“You always see something new watching the show,” he says. “I’ll pick out something I never noticed before. There’s so much to see. You can watch the performer or watch the puppet., you can watch how the costume blends in with the scenery. There’s just so much to look at.”
His enjoyment of notwithstanding, it’s the traveling that Young reports as his favorite part of the job–even if there’s little time for sightseeing.
“Even though we don’t get to see most of the city, coming out and seeing everyone’s different response to the show, how much they enjoy seeing the show…it’s great.”
The Lion King will play at the Hippodrome Nov. 16 – Dec. 10.