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PostHeaderIcon Lion King Puppet Supervisor Michael Reilly makes Lion King Animals Magic

It takes a stampede of dedicated cast and crew members to make the 230 puppets in The Lion King come to life. The play, which stomped back to Toronto on April 19 for the first time since its four-year stay in the city ended in 2004, requires actors to train with their intricate animal puppets for months.

Lion King Puppet Supervisor – Toronto-raised Michael Reilly oversees the roughly 230 puppets in the acclaimed stage production, which made a triumphant return to Toronto, ON last week.

Lion King Puppet Supervisor Michael Reilly

Lion King Puppet Supervisor Michael Reilly

“Every puppet has, you know, 50 parts to it,” says Michael Reilly, the show’s puppet supervisor. He works with two assistants to paint, fix and rebuild every puppet and mask that goes onstage in this musical adaptation of Disney’s hit 1994 film. “We have to be a jack of all trades,” says the native Torontonian, who deals with artistic, structural and electronic elements and has been involved with the production for nine years.

Whether they’re tiny repairs or enormous ones, Reilly ensures every puppet is ready to hit the stage. “Zazu, our bird, has tiny, tiny little controls inside of his head because he has a lot of moving parts, and I don’t have very small hands so it’s very difficult for me to get in there,” Reilly says.

In one of the biggest repairs he’s ever done, Reilly “once had to put an elephant on my back and hold it up while I fixed its front legs.” Four actors usually carry the 120-pound puppet pachyderm, whose backstage name is Bertha.

Although most of the delicate puppets are lightweight, using them requires all kinds of physical training.

The Lion King runs at the Princess of Wales Theatre until June 12. Buy Lion King Toronto, ON Tickets Online – Use Code AFF$10 to Get $10 OFF on Ticket Orders over $350!

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