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Brat styles Broadway show

Disney’s The Lion King touring musical arrives in Seattle

Six indigenous African languages are spoken in The Lion King. Photo credit: Disney's The Lion King

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It's safe to say most of us have seen Disney's The Lion King at least once in our life, but for one military brat, she's seen the show hundreds of times. You may have watched the magical, animated movie when you were a child, tucked under blankets on your couch with your eyes glued to the screen. Or, you may have seen it on the big screen, with popcorn in hand and your feet dangling off the edge of overstuffed theater seats. Regardless of where you were when you saw it, The Lion King has been stealing our hearts since it was released in 1994. This winter, audiences here in the Puget Sound region can revisit the powerful story -- only this time presented as a Broadway musical -- with the return of Disney's The Lion King to Paramount Theatre in Seattle.

"The story we tell every night is beautiful," said Tami Lee Thompson, a hair and makeup assistant with The Lion King. "It's about love and hope and finding yourself. It's about being true to your past and growing into your future."

The Lion King musical will hit the Paramount stage Dec. 13 and run until Jan. 6, 2019. Within those four weeks, the musical's cast of 49 actors will perform amid richly colorful sets while adorning dazzling, anthropomorphic costumes. Prominent cast members include Spencer Plachy as "Scar," Gerald Ramsey as "Mufasa," Buyi Zama as "Rafiki," Nick Cordileone as "Timon," Greg Jackson as "Zazu," Ben Lipitz as "Pumbaa," Jared Dixon as "Simba," Nia Holloway as "Nala," Keith Bennett as "Banzai," Martina Sykes as "Shenzi" and Robbie Swift as "Ed." The musical is directed by Julie Taymor.

"This show is above and beyond any other show I've worked on," said Thompson, who has been travelling with the production since August 2017. "Often, I still hear something out of the blue (during a performance) that feels like the exact message I need to hear ... I've never met anyone who didn't take something away from this show."

With six indigenous African languages spoken in the musical and having been translated into eight world languages, it's no wonder The Lion King appeals to multicultural audiences around the continent. Since the musical began touring North America in 2002, over 20 million people have seen it on stages in more than 70 cities. Production and cast members like Thompson are no strangers to the travelling lifestyle a musical of this size and scope demands.

"I've been travelling (as a hair and makeup artist) for 18 years," said Thompson. "My father used to ask me when I was going to settle down, and I told him, ‘Dad, you set me up for this life. I've done nothing but move my entire life.'" A self-proclaimed "military brat," Thompson moved frequently throughout her childhood. Her father served in the Navy for close to 15 years, and her uncles, grandfather, and several cousins served in the military, as well.

"Now I have a job in which I do nothing but move. Growing up in a military family set me up perfectly ... having that experience makes it easier for me to put myself in a situation where I can be outgoing and meet new people," said Thompson.

"Growing up in a military family, there was nothing stable about my life. There was always a possibility that my dad would get deployed or sent off somewhere. I was 10 years old before I stayed at a school for an entire year ... but that gave me a sense of adventure. I found myself through adventure."

If being part of a national, touring musical -- one in which over 18 trucks are needed to transport elaborate set pieces, props and puppets from one city to the next so 85 production members and 49 cast members can perform eight times a week -- doesn't ring of "adventure" enough for Thompson, the hair and makeup artist may find herself restless when The Lion King completes its tour. Until then, audience members can see her work onstage at the Paramount this winter.

The Lion King, showtimes vary, Tuesday-Sunday, Dec. 13-Jan. 6, 2019, Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle, ticket prices start at $72, 866.870.2717,

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