When “Disney’s The Lion King” roars back onto the Minneapolis stage, it’ll be a homecoming of sorts for one cast member with a big personality and a tiny character.

Nick Cordileone went to grade school in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park before nabbing the role of a lifetime as the wisecracking “Timon.” Though, it wasn’t necessarily a part he auditioned for.

Cordileone was asked to help with the casting of The Lion King — and as part of that duty, he was given the role of reading the other parts during auditions. While casting directors watched auditions, they couldn’t help but notice Cordileone’s talent.

“After a few people went, some of them were like, ‘Hey, would you be interested in a part at all?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely,'” he said.

They didn’t have a part specifically in mind for the Minnesota native, but before long, Cordileone found his place as the mighty meerkat.

“It’s my first experience with Lion King and my first national tour,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of regional theater, which is actually kind of similar to a Lion King tour because we stay in cities so long, it does have a regional feel because you really get to know the city.”

Not that the Twin Cities is a place Cordileone isn’t already familiar with.

Cordileone and his mother moved to the Twin Cities in 1976 and lived in New Hope and Brooklyn Park. He went to school as a youngster at St. Olaf Lutheran and St. Ann’s in Minneapolis before they moved to northeast Minneapolis.

Cordileone said his parents, grandparents and several relatives still call Minnesota home and it’s certainly the place he credits with some of his first memories.

“That’s where I basically grew up,” he said. “My very first memories are of Lake Minnetonka, and you know, watching the Vikings in freezing cold weather, the Twins and Rod Carew and Fran Tarkenton. You know, that’s where I learned about sports, that’s where I learned about theater with the Guthrie.”

Those fond memories are also what makes this return visit — and his first tour home — such an exciting experience.

“I’m coming home, it’s going to be great,” he said. “I’m excited to head back there, especially when Minneapolis had such a part in the genesis of the show. It’s going to be so great just to come back and feel that energy.”

The Lion King starts Wednesday and runs through Feb. 12 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets are on sale now and are available at the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s website.


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