Nick Cordileone as “Timon”and Ben Lipitz as “Pumbaa” in THE LION KING National Tour. ©Disney. Above right: Nick and Hero.
What’s it like to be a full-time father and performer? I caught up with 41-year-old actor Nick Cordileone, who plays the meerkat, Timon, in the touring production of Disney’s The Lion King.
The show plays at the Orpheum February 3-March 1, 2015.
MP: After 14 years in production, what keeps The Lion King so vital?
The show has heart; there are big concepts told in a way that’s easy to understand. For the stage production, the producers turned up the dial on the artwork, creating these incredible masks, puppets, shadow puppets, even figures that are part puppet, part actor, like Timon. It’s this blend of low and high tech art that makes the show fire on all cylinders.
MP: You’ve been touring for 4-and-a-half years. This must work for you.
It’s a fun way to see the country. I wondered if I’d go stir crazy or grow bored, but so far, it’s been great. This year, my 12-year-old daughter, Hero, is also traveling with me. We live in Hoboken, New Jersey, where my wife Amy works at NYU. She comes to see us every four weeks.
We’re usually in a city from four to nine weeks, so it’s like performing in regional theatre. Befpre arriving in Memphis, Hero and I were living in a house in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with several families, including four toddlers. You get to learn a lot about each city, what makes it unique, where all the good restaurants are, and the personality of the audiences. Sometimes, you can hear if an audience is being polite. But usually by the end of the show, it sounds like a rock concert and you know they’re enjoying it hugely.
MP: There are four child actors in Lion King. How did they get chosen?
We look for kids ages 9 to 12 who can sing, dance, and act. Some parents have their kids in local theater; others get agents. But Lion King auditions take place around the country (most recently last October in Chicago,) and our casting director is pretty good at spotting raw talent. No performance experience is required. During callbacks, they usually find out what a child can do beyond what they rehearsed.
MP: What do the kids do when they’re not acting?
They attend school for four hours a day. Our kid wrangler is also a certified teacher, so he is their tutor.
MP: I understand you homeschool your daughter?
Yes. It’s fun. And it’s been amazing how our study units have matched up with our destinations. While we were in Hawaii, we were studying volcanoes and in San Antonio, it was the Alamo. It’s super useful to have knowledge mean something extra. Of course, my daughter does miss the social aspects of school, going to class with friends and playing team sports. But overall, we’re having a blast.
MP: Anything you’re looking forward to while visiting Memphis?
We went out of our way one trip to have Gus’s Fried Chicken. It was really good. We look forward to a repeat performance. • Learn more at lionking.com.
The Lion King plays at the Orpheum Theatre February 3rd-March 1st.
$34-$149. Group discounts available. 529-4226. • Orpheum-memphis.com