| Theater |

South Floridian Mykal Laury Dances His Way Through Lion King

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A gray corset-like dress with yellow stripes is worn by a muscular man. Adorning his arms are yellow feathers, giving him the appearance of a bird in flight as he moves gracefully. On this dancer's head are three bird puppets, held up by a metal pole.

Gliding across the stage, this birdman commands the rapt attention of the audience. It's a moment full of power, a dance number that excites even the performer himself.

As a swing performer for the traveling production of Disney's The Lion King, Mykal Laury can probably perform the entire show on his own, though his favorite number will always be the birdman dance. Trying to describe the sensation he feels during that number, he stumbles, pauses, and lets out a sigh: "I just love it."

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Laury's job requires him to know about 24 roles -- including male and female tracks -- and to be ready at a moment's notice to step into the show.

"A swing is someone who covers anyone in the ensemble and/or one of the principle roles -- we know it all," says Laury matter-of-factly. "So if someone decides to call out because he's sick, if they're injured, or if they just don't feel like coming into work -- and that does happen, because everyone gets tired -- I'm there to wait and to hop in at any moment."

It could be ten minutes before curtain rising or ten minutes before curtain closing when he'll hear, "Mykal, you're on!"

Despite not having one particular role to call his own every night, Laury feels fortunate to instead have two dozen roles he can slip into. "I will say, actually, that I probably perform more than the people who are contracted to do their eight shows a week." It's a high-demand show, he says, so more than likely, actors need a break or two to avoid exhaustion.

Before joining the cast of The Lion King, Laury admits remembering all the commotion years ago in New York City about the Broadway show. Everything was "Lion King, Lion King, Lion King," recalls the actor, adding how he finally gave in and went to the Minskoff Theatre and see it for himself.

On walking out of the theater, his first thoughts were: "Wow, that was amazing."

After experiencing the production from an audience standpoint, Laury was itching to know it as a performer. He auditioned three times before getting cast, and now the dancer has been a part of the traveling company for more than four years.

"It's just a really spectacular show, and now, finally being a part of it, I'm so honored. All that hard work, all those times hearing 'no,' it actually paid off."

Laury, who lives in South Beach when he's not touring, is excited about The Lion King coming to Fort Lauderdale, so he can spend time at home.

"I am away from home all year 'round; I've given my life up to do this show," he says, so to be able to go to work and then go home and sleep in his own bed, it really gives him that ooh-ahh feel.

The Lion King: Through February 1 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $34.25. Call 954-462-0222, or visit browardcenter.org.

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