What’s billed as the biggest-ever Broadway event to hit Iowa opened last night (Friday) in Des Moines, as “The Lion King” begins a six-week run. The story of the African jungle is told through animals represented by some 200 masks and puppets. Supplies arrived in 20 semi-trailers. The animated version of the Lion King lit screens a dozen years ago and reached Broadway in ’97 where Aubrey Lynch was a dancer on the original cast.

Lynch is now the touring show’s associate producer. He says it’s basically the same story as the movie but it’s told in a completely innovative way, using puppetry, modern dancing, lighting and sound, and putting a high-tech twist on ancient story-telling techniques from around the world. Some cast members are even from South Africa, where the story is set, bringing their unique and authentic accents to the dialogue and music.

Just because there was an animated version of this story, Lynch says people should -not- mistake it for being a staged cartoon. Lynch says “It’s a very sophisticated show and story and at times there are some parts of the story that are scary for kids.” He says kids love the story because of the colors, songs and familiar characters but he says it’s really for adults to appreciate the story-telling elements and the high art form.

He recalls the challenges of being a cast member on the original Broadway production. “I changed costumes 19 times and that was in two hours and 45 minutes. These are full costume changes, not just costumes or unitards but puppets and strings and pulleys and levers and carrying things and it was really quite an experience just to get through the show physically.”

The show is at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines through early April. It’s expected to draw sellout crowds totaling 120-thousand during its run. For more information, surf to “www.civiccenter.org”.