The Incredible Journey of Lion King's Anthony Padilla

The Broadway production of The Lion King wraps this weekend at Segerstrom Hall. The traveling stage production will stop in 11 cities throughout North America during the 2015-16 season, with additional engagements to be announced. For wardrobe assistant Anthony Padilla, the run in Orange County is a rare homecoming. The Anaheim native has spent the last 13 seasons with Lion King, and has literally seen the world with the production. “Home is where my luggage is,” he says whenever anyone asks, but Padilla admits Orange County is where his heart is thanks to connections with family and friends.

His career started while a student at Anaheim South Junior High. His older brother, then a student at Katella High School, recruited him for stagehand tasks for high school productions. He kept with it during his stint at KHS, and got serious with theater arts at Fullerton College and CSU-Long Beach. He fell in love with the backstage. One gig led to another. He got his union card, and worked a few connections to wind up on the Lion King.

We caught up briefly with Padilla for a glimpse of life on the road of a hard-touring Broadway production.


OC Weekly (Adam Lovinus) : How long have you been with the Lion King, and how did you get the gig?

Anthony Padilla: I started pre-production of Los Angeles Lion King in July 2000, so 15 years. I interviewed as a dyer/painter for pre-production, Walter Douglas (Wardrobe Supervisor) then hired me as a dresser for the show. After the show closed in February of 2003 there was an opening for an assistant wardrobe supervisor three months later for the Gazelle touring company. Gillian Kadish, who took over as wardrobe supervisor after Walter went on tour, suggested my name as a possible replacement for the position. I have been here since.

Can you sum up what the role of wardrobe assistant entails on a production of this scale?

Our wardrobe department consists of a department head, assistants, and local dressers. The wardrobe head and wardrobe assistants oversee the local crew as they maintain, steam, press, sew, do shoe repair, launder, bead, and dress the actors.

What's a typical day like when the production pulls into a new city?

We will start at 8 a.m. We have two hours to train the dressers in their tracks. Each of the traveling supervisors trains four dressers–I train four male ensemble dressers who each dress three actors by 10 a.m. The cast comes to the theater and we have a puppet orientation with the dressers; they get introduced to the puppet department and meet several performers. I'm also training the laundry person at this time. We also do presets with costumes. Lunch break. 

Noon is our half-hour call, and dressers do presets at 12:30 p.m. All departments train as we do a run-thru. Once run-thru is over and we problem-solve anything that needs to be reexamined, I train the laundry person on pick-up and distribution. Crew comes in at 6 p.m. and they will receive their continuity hour assignments. 7:30pm. Show with training. 10:30 p.m. after show I train a dresser how to do the late night laundry. By 11:30 p.m. I am done for the day.

The Lion King is known for its elaborate masks and costumes, which is your favorite?

My favorite is the simplest, Groundrow. These are the male dancers that are lying on the ground with the grass blades on one side of their body. These are my favorite because I think the simplicity is very clever and I love their movement in the costume.

The production touring schedule is pretty insane–it looks like you will be working almost every day for the next year. How do you cope with that kind of work schedule?

We are on the road 365 days out of the year and this is my 13th year on the road. It becomes your normal [life], you get used to the schedule.

What is your life like when you're not touring with a traveling production?

When I'm not traveling with The Lion King and I have time off from the show, I'm traveling or coming back to Southern California to see family and friends. I miss my family and it is truly the hardest part about being on the road. But I love to travel and I'm happiest when my bags are packed.

I am very fortunate to have seen a large part of the world and experience other cultures, meet diverse people, touch history, and learn how connected we all are. I've seen the inside of the Great Pyramid, scuba dived with manta rays, went on safari in South Africa, Wine tasting in Tuscany, shopping in Singapore, monkey forest in Bali, dining at French Laundry–I'm very grateful and thankful for the opportunities I've been given.

See also:
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For ticket's to the Lion King, visit the Segerstrom Center's website.

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