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Disney's The Lion King Las Vegas: Thom Sesma's Makeup Transformation into Scar

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by Lia Chang/ http://wp.me/pla1d-2nI "I have the best job in the world!" says Thom Sesma, who is currently starring as the deliciously evil Scar in Disney's The LION KING Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. I caught Thom's thrilling turn as Scar last year and he is perfectly suited to the villainous role. I was struck by Thom's resemblance to a Samurai, no doubt a nod to Taymor's vast body of work with Asian theatrical art forms. It takes a village to transform Thom, who has starred on Broadway in The Times They Are A-Changin', The Man of La Mancha and La Cage Aux Folles. Disney's THE LION KING celebrated its first anniversary on the Las Vegas Strip at Mandalay Bay on Saturday, May 15, 2010, and this production is Thom's LION KING debut. More than 500,000 people have seen the world-renowned show in its debut year. Within nine weeks of its Las Vegas opening, Disney's THE LION KING broke the Mandalay Bay box office record previously held by MAMMA MIA! and then went on to break its own record four more times throughout the year. Las Vegas Magazine said THE LION KING "... transcends cultural boundaries and the limits of the imagination," while CityLife called it "...flat-out brilliant." THE LION KING also was recently named the city's "Best Show" by the staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in its annual "Best of Las Vegas" awards. I had a backstage pass to document Thom's remarkable transformation for my newly created Lia Chang Asian Pacific American Theater Photography Portfolio for the Library of Congress. 5:45pm We arrived at the Mandalay Bay theatre. 6:15pm Thom normally gets his makeup done in a makeup room located on the other side of the stage, but tonight we meet up with his makeup artist Laura Sill in his dressing room that he shares with Patrick Kerr, who portrays "Zazu." 6:30pm As Laura works her magic transforming the Japanese American actor into a lion of the Savannah, she explains that The Lion King director Julie Taymor and makeup artist Michael Curry are the creative forces for each of the distinctive looks of the characters. 7pm His dresser Craig West, rigs him into his leather costume, which weighs in at over 50 lbs. Laura puts on the wig and touches up his makeup. His mask, a mechanical lion-face headpiece that can be raised and lowered via a hidden remote control, creating the illusion of a cat "lunging" during his confrontations with his brother Mufasa and the Hyenas, is the final costume piece to be attached. As the half hour to showtime was announced, I was whisked away by Meghan Baker, the PR person for the show. Across the stage, Thom's voice called out goodbye, in the dark, as he went to warm up in the house. Equally at home in the musical theater as well as on the legit stage, Thom has been on and off Broadway and on tour in Miss Saigon, Titanic, Search and Destroy, Cymbeline, Rashomon, Baba Goya, In a Pig's Valise, As Thousands Cheer, Othello, Ivanov, Howard Barker's A Hard Heart, playing opposite Kathleen Chalfant and starring opposite Charles Busch in Shanghai Moon. Last year, he received The Enquirer Acclaim Award, which celebrates the best of Cincinnati theatre, for his turn as a frustrated Korean immigrant widower in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's production of Julia Cho's Durango which opened the 2008 fall season. Disney's THE LION KING is performed Monday-Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday performances at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets for Disney's THE LION KING at Mandalay Bay are available for $64, $86 and $113.50. VIP packages, which include premium seating, a complimentary souvenir program and a complimentary VIP show merchandise item, are available for $168.50. Taxes are included in all prices. Tickets can be purchased at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations; through the box office at (702) 632-7580 or Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000; and online via www.lionkinglasvegas.com or www.ticketmaster.com. Reservations for groups of 15 or more can be purchased through...