THERE is a magical moment before every performance of The Lion King when the stage is bare and performers Rob Collins and Josh Quong Tart prepare together for the show against the rumble of the crowd and orchestra warming up on the other side of the curtain.
Then for the next two hours and 40 minutes the pair is anything but cordial to each other while playing brothers Mufasa (Collins) and Scar (Quong Tart) in the epic Disney musical.
Both stars trained at National Institute Of Dramatic Art (NIDA), with Darwin-born Collins graduating more recently and making his professional stage debut in this Australian touring production.
“I was in my last year at NIDA of a three-year course and the opportunity came up to audition,” Collins said.
“Initially I approached it as an exercise to get experience in auditioning and thankfully I progressed through and here I am.”
Quong Tart, who was last in Perth filming The Great Mint Swindle, said he only wanted to play the bad guy.
“Everyone has their dream role to play, Simba or Mufasa, but Scar was a no-brainer for me,” he said.
“He starts without power, he pursues it, gets it and then you see what happens to him when he loses it again. There are really clear moments for him and it’s a lovely journey to go on.”
Both performers said they were grateful to associate director John Stefaniuk for allowing them to approach each role with their own flavour.
“Certainly when it first came out, there was more of a compartmentalised approach as far as doing it one way; you were bound more by the Broadway production,” Quong Tart said.
“They’ve loosened it up a little bit and I was able to play Scar with more of the psychotic element to him which was what I was very much hoping for.
“I was surprised I was allowed to go as far as I do.”
Collins said the pressure had been immense and remembered reading one of the first reviews when the show opened in Sydney in 2013 that stated “strong performance by Collins, doesn’t sound anything like James Earl Jones though”.
“So the pressure is there and the expectation because the movie is so well-known,” Collins said.
“I think John’s approach at the start of the rehearsal process was key in allowing us to take ownership of these iconic roles.”
What: The Lion King
Where: Crown Theatre Perth
When: until February 28