In case you’re not familiar with the story, “The Lion King” is a coming of age tale about a young lion cub named Simba and his journey in becoming king of his African kingdom.
One word can summarize this play for me . . . Beautiful.
We caught the touring production of this one, and were blown away. Earlier this year, we also had the opportunity to hear Tshidi Manye, who portrays Rafiki in the NY-based production, perform “Circle of Life,” and to say that she’s a little powerhouse is an understatement.
If you’ve seen the Disney animated feature film on which it is based, you know that Elton John and Tim Rice offer up award-winning, memorable lyrics and music that will make your heart swell and at times your belly ache with laughter. These are complimented nicely by Hans Zimmer’s breathtaking score.
In 1998 the play’s director Julie Taymor became the first woman to win a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, and also won a Tony for Best Costumes. On both counts I think the honor was well deserved.
It was hard to imagine the animals of the kingdom being able to appear on stage in grand fashion. But genius puppetry work combined with stellar choreography bring to life the birds and beasts of the African plains. “I’ve got no strings to hold me down” was most certainly a mantra for these puppeteer masters. Graceful gazelle, powerful pachyderm, and a bevy of creatures are welcomed to the stage in a breathtaking display that audiences will not soon forget.
Tribal costumes and regal masks and headwear create the look of the stately pride pack. And clever costuming, especially in the case of the king’s faithful informer Zazu, allowed for the puppets to grab attention while the puppeteers served as complimentary accessories that didn’t distract from the scenes.
This play is pretty close to being perfect. There was only one scene that I particularly didn’t care for where Simba and his father are sitting atop a plateau talking. This scene was in such contrast to those that came before in that it lacked the vibrancy and activity that that you grow accustomed to. And the length of the scene seems quite long. But stick through it as there’s plenty to enjoy afterwards.
“The Lion King” is a pure delight, and should not be missed. Believe me when I tell you that this one is worth every penny you’ll spend to see it. So if the tour is hitting your area or you are headed to Broadway, be sure to snag your tickets early so that you don’t miss this stage spectacular.
Just a reminder to parents bringing their children to see the show . . . Although this is a family-friendly production, especially considering that the source film is a part of many families’ media collections, it’s not all a happy presentation. The topic of death is brought up and the idea of the hyenas and Scar’s evil plan might scare some younger viewers.
Insider tip: This is one that’s worth splurging for a more expensive ticket and sitting on the floor level. Not only will you see the puppeteer work better, but there are also other surprises to behold.
To check out more information about the show, see when it’s headed to your area or show times in the Big Apple, and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.lionking.com/.