New Orleans

The Lion King - National Tour

Experience the circle of life as Disney’s beloved film comes to eye-popping life onstage.

How The Lion KIng's Nick Cordileone 'Hijacked' His Way into the Pridelands

About the Author:
Nick Cordileone plays Timon, Simba’s feisty meerkat ally in the national tour of The Lion King. In addition to appearing off-Broadway in The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, Cordileone claims to be no victim of typecasting, having also played such eclectic roles as Candida, Alice Sycamore, the females of The 39 Steps and Grandpa Ben in Broadway Bound. asked Cordileone to document his experience with Disney’s stage phenomenon. Read on to learn about Cordileone’s fateful audition, being inspired by the show’s acclaimed director Julie Taymor and on-the-road companionship with his daughter.

My journey with The Lion King began as an audition reader—the person assigned to read scenes with the actor there to audition. But Mufasa as my witness, I was not trying to sneak into the show. My experience at that point had been primarily classical, non-musical and regional. The Lion King was about as far off my radar as The Gin Game. I was stringing together enough reader gigs to make a healthy living and I prided myself on not being "that guy" who hijacks other people’s auditions.

A few auditions in, the casting director asked me if I was interested in being considered for a role. The Lion King was orchestrating several principle transitions for Broadway, the Las Vegas production and the national tour; he didn’t know which company I’d fit into, or it which role. I was given several invaluable puppetry sessions with the associate director and after weeks of listening to his expertise, the role of Timon seemed to be the best potential fit for me. It was time to see if The Lion King’s acclaimed director, Julie Taymor, agreed.

My initial audition was out of the way, so I went into my meeting with Taymor with the freedom to soak up the master class atmosphere she created. It was a true gift to hear Taymor speak personally about a project that has impacted her life so powerfully. Since Lion King opened on Broadway over 14 years ago, her passion and dedication to this work hasn’t diminished. At the end of this fulfilling day, I was given the opportunity to play Timon on tour.

The scope, production value and magnitude of the tour were intimidating to me at first. I wasn't sure I was equipped to hit the ground running as a novice puppeteer. Yet Disney's approach to The Lion King is exceptional in that the story comes first. As long as the storytelling is sound, expertise can be honed. The rehearsal process is thoughtfully built to accommodate gradual integration of the text, masks and puppets.

The past year and half on tour has flown by and I love it more each day. My nine-year-old daughter, Hero, tours with me, and together we explore the joys of home-away-from-home schooling. We are often close enough to New York to keep the maximum time apart from my wife, Amy, down to three weeks. Facetime, Skype, and iChat are virtual staples in our nontraditionally traditional family. Amy's teaching schedule at New York University affords summers and holidays together in whatever burg we temporarily call home. Additionally, the sense of a surrogate family that is created among the cast in most shows has greatly benefitted me here. An electric quality develops when a company works, plays and lives together; I am delighted to be a part of it.

All that said, if you see me at your next callback audition, breathe easy. Current circumstances haven't shifted the paradigm—this reader is only eager to get you work.

See Cordileone and the rest of the Lion King pride at New Orleans’ Mahalia Jackson Theater from March 14 through April 15.

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