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Jared Dixon, who plays Simba, and Nia Holloway, who plays Nala, appointment real-life lions that affect the Broadway appearance at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. Lansing State Journal

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Cast associates of The Lion King, currently arena at the Wharton Center, Nia Halloway, left, who plays Nala and Jared Dixon, who plays Simba, are accustomed a behind-the-scenes attending at the big cat exhibit, Thursday, July 19, 2018, at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich. (Photo: Al Goldis | For the Lansing State Journal)Buy Photo

LANSING — What do casting associates of the Tony Award-winning Lion King agreeable do with their time off?

Sometimes, they adhere out with actual lions.

Jared Dixon, who plays Simba, and Nia Holloway, who plays Nala, ventured over to Potter Park Zoo’s Big Cat display Thursday to appointment the real-life animals that affect the Broadway show.

The Lion King is arena at Wharton Center in East Lansing through July 29. 

“To prepare for our roles as lions, surprisingly, we are brash to watch a lot of videos of lions,” Holloway said.

“How they move, how they collaborate with anniversary other. If you appear see the show, a lot of the affective that we do, reminds you of how lions move as well.”

The two casting associates got up abutting and claimed with Dakota, a male, and Ulana and Saida, who are sisters. They were separated alone by a fence.   

Holloway, the veteran, has been playing Nala for bristles years. Dixon is a newbie and has been arena Simba for alone bristles weeks.

Zookeeper Annie Marcum feeds a brace of changeable lions, Ulana and Saida, Thursday, July 19, 2018, at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich. Casting associates of The Lion King, currently arena at the Wharton Center, area accustomed a behind-the-scenes attending at the zoo’s big cat exhibit. (Photo: Al Goldis | For the Lansing State Journal)

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Dixon says the roles are physically demanding.

“Cats move with ease,” Dixon said. “We aloof witnessed one of them jump on that bedrock after alike a additional thought. We accept to be able to move in the aforementioned way. When we jump onstage as humans, we put a lot of accomplishment into it. But cats, they don’t.

“They jump and acreage gracefully, so we accept to do that and affectionate of accomplish it attending easy. We’ve got this big altercate in the average of the show. After that, immediately, we’re talking, and it’s declared to be accustomed conversation. We’re accomplishing a lot of adenoids breath at that point. That’s apparently the hardest thing, just marinating the animality with the acting demands.”

Dakota, belief in at about 450 pounds, is decidedly bigger than the girls. Ulana weighs about 350 pounds, while Saida is about 320 pounds.

“This is my aboriginal acquaintance actuality this abutting to lions,” Nia Holloway said. “It’s a able feeling. You can feel their power.”

Nia Holloway as “Nala,” Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” and “The Lionesses” in THE LION KING North American Tour. (Photo: Photo Credit: Deen van Meer.)

In the aftermost burghal they were in, Dallas, Texas, some of the casting went to a care accomplishment ability and visited the lions, Dixon said. That was his aboriginal acquaintance actuality abutting to lions.

The lions beddy-bye about 20 hours anniversary day, but back it’s time to eat, they’re ready.

While administrator Liz Jagenow fed the lions chunks of meat, Dixon and Holloway empiric until it was their turn.

“All the meat that we augment our ample carnivores is horse meat,” Jagenow said. “It’s a lot bacteria than beef, so it’s a lot healthier. Back bodies get obese, it’s actual adamantine on their livers and actual adamantine on their kidneys, and it can absolutely booty years off the end of their lives, so we’re actual careful.”

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After the girls were fed, Jagenow offered the Lion King casting associates the befalling to augment them a little bit of milk from a bottle.

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After instructing them both how to authority the canteen upside bottomward and squeeze, Dixon and Holloway both gave it a try.

The cats’ commons aren’t the exact aforementioned every day, administrator Annie Marcum said. 

“It’s important for us to accomplish abiding that they accept airheadedness in their day, so their activity doesn’t get too predictable,” Marcum said. “Most of the diet is comprised by a meat that is fabricated by a aggregation that makes diets for alien animals. All the vitamins and minerals they charge are in there. 

“They additionally get accomplished casualty account added in, like rabbits, fish, chicken, and again they get bones. So how they’re fed changes all the time.”

The lionesses are 14 years old, and Dakota will be 12 in November. They can alive into their 20s, Marcum said.

“But that’s like adage we can alive to be into our 90s to 100s,” Jagenow said, “so they are already like middling to backward age. They’re accepting appealing old. They’re still acting appealing good. They still move about great.”

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The big bodies do get toys. 

“The lionesses especially absolutely adulation balls,” Marcum said. “We’ll get assurance that are anywhere from 12 inches to 2½ to 3 feet in diameter. Any time they get a toy, they get it for a day or two, again it goes abroad for a little while.”

When they’re not visiting lions, Dixon and Holloway said they accomplish in about eight shows anniversary week, sometimes nine or 10. They say they’re acceptable accompany off stage.

“We get to altercate every night and it’s the best fun that I accept on stage, probably,” Dixon said. “It’s fun to see the aberration in anniversary added every day. She may appear in activity altered some days, and some canicule I appear in activity different.”

Holloway agrees.

 “You aloof never apperceive what you’re activity to get from the being you’re beyond from,” she said. “That’s the fun and difficult part.”

Contact Vickki Dozier at (517) 267-1342 or vdozier@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @vickkiD.

 

Read or Share this story: https://on.lsj.com/2zZ6Ely

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