Cast members of the Lion King hold forum at CHPL

On Monday, April 5, members of the Cherry Hill community gathered in the conference room of the Cherry Hill Public Library for a forum being held with 3 cast members of the Kimmel Center’s production of Disney’s “The Lion King.”

For about an hour, beginning at 7 p.m., about 150 residents of all ages—from young to old—had the opportunity to watch a brief video with footage of previous performances, ask the cast members questions and then to receive cast members’ autographs.

The cast members present included Erynn Dickerson, a member of the ensemble, Rhea Roderick, a graduate of nearby Hallaghan High School, and Ben Lipitz, who plays Pumbaa and graduated from Cherry Hill High School West.

Mr. Tom Weaver, head of East’s drama department, mediated the event by relaying audience members’ questions to the cast members. Questions ranged from “how long does it take to get your makeup on?”, “how do you get into the costumes?”, “are there children in the cast?” and “do you have any advice for aspiring actors and actresses?”

The cast members revealed being a member of the ensemble requires knowledge of every single animal character within the ensemble. Each character’s makeup takes different lengths to apply. In the cast there are about 500 costumes, each of which is personalized per cast member. The cast members described how for the giraffes, those cast members must climb a ladder in order to reach their stilts, then must be handed their head to put on, after which they lean forward to reach their stilts for their arms.

Lipitz in particular described the fiasco at the beginning of the national tour concerning how the stilts for the giraffes’ arms didn’t have rubber stoppers on them, so the giraffes had slipped.

In reference to being asked what it feels like to get in costume and be in the production, Dickerson said “you really become what you are,” as she described how the directors were helpful in guiding members of the ensemble to become one with their animal parts by studying animal temperaments and movements.

On that same topic, Lipitz said, “the duality that’s designed into [the show]…you see the humanity within [the animals].”

Many aspiring actors and actresses were in the audience, such as a few members of East’s theater department.

When asked how valuable the forum was to Taylor Brody (’11), he said, “You don’t get this chance very often. It’s important to listen to people who have already been there and done that.”

Dakota Judge (’13) agreed with Brody, in that “[this was] a very good opportunity to learn how to get started.”

Justin Parker (’10) summarized his experience at the forum by saying, “[the forum] gave [me] another look from a professional standpoint of the show. It helps me as an actor to understand the business and to not give up if you hear a ‘no’—you need a ‘no’ to be a better actor.”

The inspiration shared by the aforementioned aspiring actors and actresses echoes the advice given by the cast members, mainly as Lipitz described, “learn to separate yourself from the work. Get a bigger problem—there are more important things than what we do,” in reference to actors and actresses coping with rejection.

Lipitz also gave the advice that “so long as you’re pursuing your art, and it contributes to the bigger picture,” encouraging aspiring actors and actresses to continue on their paths.

As Roderick said, “I remember thinking I wanna do it all. The sky is the limit.”

Overall, the forum provided members of the community with insight into the Kimmel Center’s production of “The Lion King,” whose run time has been March 23-April 24. The cast members reiterated the notion of reaching for the stars, to those members of the audience who wish to become stars.

Lion King 1
courtesy of Avra Bossov (’11)/ Eastside News/Features Editor
Lipitz (right) acts in The Lion King; courtesy of Lipitz's personal website:
Tyler Murree as “Timon” and Ben Lipitz as “Pumbaa” in THE LION KING National Tour. ©Disney. Courtesy of Joan Marcus.