The Lion King. Crown Theatre Perth

John Xintavelonis as Pumbaa and Jamie McGregor as Timon. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
John Xintavelonis as Pumbaa and Jamie McGregor as Timon. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

JOHN Xintavelonis has experienced a lot of mileage from playing a flatulent warthog.

“When people find out you play Pumbaa they go berserk,” The Lion King star said.

“It’s the best role in the world. Pumbaa is a bit like Santa Claus; no one ever has a bad thing to say about Santa and Pumbaa is pretty much the same.

“He’s so naive and child-like, he never gets angry or upset and is just so happy-go-lucky as a character, it’s just a gift of a role.”

Xintavelonis was part of the first Australian cast alongside Jamie McGregor, who played onstage best friend Timon.

Both are reprising their roles during the season at Crown Theatre Perth.

“I’m very lucky that 10 years later it’s the same Timon; the whole chemistry was there straight away,” the Tasmanian performer said.

“It’s made the job extremely easy, apart from the 20kg Pumbaa costume.”

Xintavelonis, who has been in other musicals from South Pacific and The Boy from Oz to Billy Elliott and Annie, said his favourite part of the show was undoubtedly singing Hakuna Matata.

“We come in during the last 10 minutes of the first act; we’re the last part you’ll see before interval,” he said.

“Up until that point there’s been a whole bunch of story and the audience has been on an emotional rollercoaster, so when Timon and Pumbaa come on, you can sense or even hear the audience relax.

“We have some fantastic lines. Simba grows up during the song and we close the act, so we get all the accolades for doing just 10 minute’s work.”

Xintavelonis said he loved that the Disney musical was not a carbon copy of the film, although it still had all the classic lines, making it popular across the generations.

“They’ve cut a song out and shortened it a bit, but essentially it’s the same show whether you see it on the West End, Broadway or Australia,” he said.

“It’s the show that keeps on giving and people keep returning to it. I’m so fortunate the phone rang asking me to come back.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: The Lion King

Where: Crown Theatre Perth

When: until February 28

Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com.au