It’s fair to say that “The Lion King” is arguably the largest show to play in Boise. With its massive cast and crew and huge sets, it will metamorphose the Morrison Center into a magical version of the African plains, filled with giraffes, hippopotamuses, balletic exotic birds — and lions, of course.
The show brings the animated Disney film to life in a sophisticated visual spectacle using heartfelt storytelling that’s created by Julie Taymor’s direction and Michael Curry’s puppet wizardry, as well as the dynamic performances of its 49 cast members — including Nampa’s own Mark Campbell, who plays Scar, Simba’s evil and ambitious uncle.
You can see Campbell, who was born in an Idaho farmhouse 42 years ago, and “The Lion King” when it opens Wednesday, Oct. 17, for a three-week run.
This is the show’s first time in Idaho, and it’s been a long time coming. The Morrison Center closed for two months during the summer of 2016 to make improvements to the theater’s infrastructure so it could handle larger touring shows. Last season it was the 25th anniversary production of “The Phantom of the Opera” and it’s gigantic chandelier. “The Lion King” is equally epic, with its 18-foot set for Pride Rock that opens the show with the iconic “Circle of Life” and 200 animal puppets, including the 13-foot elephants and 18-foot giraffes.
It’s also one of the most loved shows that continually tours, and it has a sit-down production at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway since it opened in 1997. With more than 8,000 performances on Broadway and multiple tours around the globe over its 21-year history, it is now the highest-grossing show in history, raking in more than $8 billion as of last December. That’s more than all of the new “Star Wars” films combined, according to Forbes Magazine.
All of that success is built on heart, Campbell says.
“The show is really something special in how the audience reacts and the swath of people who are affected. When else will you see a 2-year-old sit through a show for two hours without saying anything? People in their 80s are just blown away,” he says.
This is Campbell’s second “Lion King” tour. Each time he and the cast work with the original creators, including Taymor and choreographer Garth Fagan, to hone their performances.
Campbell also toured as the Phantom in 25th anniversary production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and he says the magic you see in the theater is a result of a lot of hard work.
“This is definitely the most challenging show I’ve done physically,” he says. “I take care of myself like an athlete.”
It takes four people to get him into the 40-pound Scar costume, and the physicality of the character is “punishing,” he says.
“Julie (Taymor) wanted Scar to have a movement somewhere between a lion and a serpent, and I’ve worked on that with a lot of deep lunges. Let’s just say when I walk away from this show I’ll have some great quads.”
After two years playing Scar, Campbell will hang up his paws after week one in Boise. He decided to leave the tour to pursue new adventures and take a break from its grueling schedule, he says. And closing this chapter of his career in Boise is a turn of serendipity, considering his roots.
His father, John, was a doctor in the Nampa area and ran a small family practice for a few years before moving the family to Lincoln, Nebraska, which Campbell calls home. But while he’s here he wants to search his past and find the house were he came into the world, he says. It might be hard to fit a trip to Nampa into his eight-show week, but he hopes to try.
“It would mean a lot to my dad. I have really sketchy memories of it because I was so little,” he says. “It didn’t have an address, just a route number, and I think I remember lots of animals, but I’m not sure. I’m not even sure it’s still standing.”
‘The Lion King’
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18; 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, to Thursday, Oct. 25; 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, Wednesday, Oct. 31, Thursday, Nov. 1; 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4. Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise. $30-$145. Ticketmaster or 208-426-1110.
Note: The first week and all Friday and Saturday performances have limited availability. Your best chance to get seats together is on Halloween, Oct. 31, and the last weekend.
Parking: Make sure to allow extra time to get to the Morrison Center. Because of the construction surface parking is limited. It’s best to park in the Brady Street Garage. For quicker access, enter from Brady Street.