Backstage with Lion King cast members

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The stage production of Disney's "The Lion King" started a three week run in Fresno this week.

For Lion King performers, the demanding play requires they act, sing, and dance and operate elaborate puppet like costumes.

Deidria Halley-James is a dancer. She told us: " As a dancer we have to use gazelles and jump and leap and all the stuff on our head and the cheetah -- you have to manipulate the cheetah a certain way and prance a certain way, and still look graceful."

Halley James has many roles, including that of a cheetah. She has to step into the figure, and operate it much like a marionette, using every part of her body to manipulate the legs and head. But, she loves it.

"Definitely my favorite thing to do in the show, she's so sexy and individual, she's only one."

William James Jr. is a singer in the show, and, also a hyena, a puppet costume requiring him to walk nearly on all fours.

"Hyena harnesses and legs, as you can see, it can be awkward until you can get a hold of what you are doing."

There are 53 cast members in this show. James and Deidria are the only married couple. And they are Lion King veterans, both with years of performing the show in different productions with different companies. Deidrie, now in her early 30's, started as a teenager.

" I remember auditioning for the Lion King back in 2003 and fresh, first audition and here I am all these years later."

Both love the show and after doing it hundreds of times James says they work hard to make sure every audience gets their money's worth.

"The main challenge is definitely staying fresh and staying warm and staying healthy so we can deliver the audience the show that they deserve every night, 8 shows a week with only one day off."

Deidria says it's a show she doesn't get tired of. "I think the one thing that keeps me coming back is the thing that I love which is getting to tell the story of the circle of life, like it's so profound that you get to sing and dance and just really emote life and love. And just the whole transition of what life is, it's really deep if you think about it. "

Lion King's 16 performance run at the Saroyan Theater continues until Sunday, December 19th.

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