King of the jungle
As a young actor, Eric Bean was amazed by The Lion King. He couldn't believe his luck when he was hired to tour the East Coast with the award-winning Broadway musical in June.
Only two years earlier, the 33-year-old was turned down after his audition; getting a spot in the male ensemble was “a dream come true”.
He said: “I just remember sitting there and being so in awe of how amazing a spectacle it was. It was like the movie, but more in-depth. A lot of my friends were in the production, and I put it on my career bucket list.
“I happened to be in Los Angeles visiting a friend. He said I should go for it and this time I was determined to just treat it like any other dance class.”
The strategy worked.
“It was a gruelling audition,” he said. “They tested our strength, technique and ability. Then they asked if anyone could tumble. Fortunately, I do. In this business you have to be able to do it all.”
He remembers “grinning from ear to ear” when he got the call saying he'd got the job.
“I told my coworkers and they were all jumping up and down and congratulating me.
“It was so crazy. I was so, so happy.”
The Lion King tells the story of Simba a cub left on his own in the wild after his father, King Mufasa, is murdered. Years later, he returns to reclaim the pride from his uncle Scar, who took it over after murdering his older brother.
Mr Bean plays a trickster, a zebra, a dancing hyena, and a giant grass leaf. He is also the understudy for the giraffe and the bird man.
“With the giraffe I am on 6ft stilts,” he said. “It can be quite dangerous, but thankfully I've never been injured.”
His trickster costume includes a 2ft headdress, that is topped with horns.
“I have to cartwheel across the stage,” he said. “There are several things that can go wrong.
“It's very crazy, but a lot of fun.”
Mr Bean has lived in Las Vegas since 2013. He was working on a cruise ship before he joined The Lion King — Rafiki Tour, his first Broadway production.
“It is certainly the most complicated production I've ever been in,” he said. “There is so much technology and automation in the show that sometimes things happen.
“The computer may need rebooting, but they can't do that in the middle of a show.
“We just have to move to ‘Plan B' and keep going.”
He started rehearsals last September, five weeks before the tour officially launched.
“They are expecting this show to run for at least another ten years,” Mr Bean said. “It shows no signs of slowing down.”
So far, he has been to five cities. He is now in Orlando, Florida, and heads to Birmingham, Alabama, next month.
“I probably won't be back in Bermuda until 2019,” he said. “Whenever I do come back, I always make a point of seeing my old dance teacher, Suzette Harvey, at United Dance Productions.
“She is still one of my mentors. I always try and make sure to keep her in the loop.”
He thought it would be great if The Lion King could one day show here.
“I don't know if there is a theatre with the right specifications,” he said. “Ruth Seaton James is large enough, but I don't know if their rigging system would meet our needs.”
• Buy tickets for the show at orlando.broadway.com/shows/lion-king-baa/engagements