Exclusive backstage look at Disney’s The Lion King at the Detroit Opera House

Hear from the production’s head carpenter and puppet, wardrobe leaders

Local 4's Rhonda Walker is getting a special backstage look at Disney's The Lion King music, and what goes into the making of the iconic musical.

DETROIT – The world’s No. 1 musical has returned to Detroit once again, and we’re getting a special behind-the-scenes look at the production.

Debuting on Broadway 25 years ago, Disney’s The Lion King has become the most iconic musical in the world. It now tours in 10 different countries in nine different languages. The show has won 70 theatrical awards from Tony’s to Grammy’s.

And now, on its fifth stop in Detroit, The Lion King is in full force at the Detroit Opera House this month -- and Local 4′s Rhonda Walker was given an exclusive backstage pass to see just what goes into putting on such a show.

This production does not travel light: Everything needed for the musical arrived in Detroit on 17 semi trucks, including the set pieces, puppets and materials. Head carpenter Lindsey Roller says their team is comprised of 40 crew members, and that they pick up an additional 100 crew members in every city that help put the sets together and run the show each night.

According to Roller, the largest piece on set is the iconic Pride Rock, which weighs 6,000 pounds.

Roller tells us more about what it’s like to be head carpenter in the video below.

Rhonda Walker talks to Lindsey Roller, the head carpenter on The Lion King stage show in Detroit.

While the technology, engineering and artwork of the sets are such an integral part of the look and feel of the performance, The Lion King’s ability to create characters that are animals and human actors at the same time is what makes it so mesmerizing.

Michael Reilly heads the puppet shop for the production, and he shows us more about the 200 puppets included in the show, the gorgeously detailed African masks that look like solid wood, but aren’t, and more.

Hear more from Reilly in the video player below.

Rhonda Walker talks to the puppet supervisor for the Lion King stage show in Detroit.

We also had a chance to chat with Gregory Young, the head of wardrobe for the musical. He has lead the costume design for the performance since it debuted 25 years ago.

Young says there are 250 costumes on the stage each and every night, with 16 dressers getting 32 performers ready. He calls it organized chaos, but whatever it is, it’s working: The costumes alone have won awards.

“Seeing the whole production at the end, all your work on stage, makes it gratifying,” Young said.

Hear more of our conversation with Young in the video player below.

Rhonda Walker talks to Wardrobe Supervisor Gregory Young of the Lion King stage show in Detroit.

The final performance of Disney’s The Lion King is on Sunday, Feb. 20, at the Detroit Opera House. There were still limited seats available for all of the weekend shows -- so don’t miss it!

More: Three reasons to go see The Lion King at the Detroit Opera House


About the Author:

Rhonda Walker has been helping Detroiters get motivated and ready for the day for the past 22 years. A confessed morning person, this award winning talented and versatile journalist starts her day at 2:00 am to co-anchor the weekday morning newscast at WDIV-Local 4 News. A position she’s held since 2003.