Everyone has heard of the epic 1994 DISNEY film ‘The Lion King’ and it is one of the highest grossing films of all time, making a huge $951 million worldwide as of 2011. The film features award winning songs by global star Elton John, accompanying the stunning visuals and story. The Disney Theatrical Group soon looked to ‘Lion King’ after the success of ‘Beauty and the Beast‘ to turn it into a on stage musical. Disney Theatrical are behind such shows as ‘Aida‘, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Tarzan‘, ‘The Little Mermaid’ ‘Sister Act’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Newsies‘ yet the Lion King has outshone them all, becoming the highest grossing Broadway show of all time and has played to over 65 million theatre goers.
In this direct from the West End touring production nothing appears to be downsized or reduced, it was my first time seeing the show therefore this came as a pleasant surprise. The show opens with ‘The Circle of Life‘ and this could quite possibly be one of the greatest openings to a show I have ever seen. You are surrounded by Elephants and Rhinos that walk down the aisles, Giraffe, Zebra, Antelope and Cheetah amongst other animals fill the stage. Birds fly overhead as the audience is entranced by the stunning artistry of the set, masks, puppets and costumes that create these animals.
Julie Taymor is the genius behind the Lion Kings direction, costumes, masks and puppets. Taymor has worked extensively in Directing Theatre, Opera, Film and has written five books. Her best known work is The Lion King and Julie received the Tony awards ‘Best Direction of a Musical’ and ‘Best Costume Design’ for her work on the show. The Lion King also won an additional four Tony awards including ‘Best New Musical’. The costumes, masks and puppets are stunning and the way the actors move inside their costumes or the way they work a puppet makes the audience truly believe they are looking at animals.
The Lion King on stage is far from a copy of the original film and includes new additional songs including ‘Chow Down’, ‘He Lives in You’, ‘Shadowland’ and ‘Endless Night’. The music is predominantly by Elton John with the lyrics of Sir Tim Rice but Hans Zimmer, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Jaques Loubelo contributed to some of the songs.
Gugwana Dlamini is the UK Tours Rafiki, a role she has previously played in London, on the US Tour and in Singapore. Gugwana was full of energy and emotion and could make the audience roar with laughter or bring a tear to the eye. Nicholas Nkuna is Simba the shows leading character, Nicholas has a strong voice and his emotive acting made Simbas character believable. Stephen Carilile is the evil Scar. A fantastic role which I’m sure he thoroughly enjoys playing, Stephen portrayed the bitter, twisted Scar with such dexterity he truly became the character in front of our eyes. Meilr Sion did a wonderful job as a Scottish Zazu and John Hasler and Mark Roper provided the comedy relief as the beloved double act Timon and Pumbaa. Carole Stennett is Nala, bringing down the house with her rendition of the powerful ‘Shadowland‘ and Cleveland Cathnott is Mufasa, who played the King of Pride Rock with majesty and great stature. I couldn’t forget Joshua Cameron and Donica Elliston who gave it their all as Young Simba and Young Nala, very talented performers.
The show is faultless as it has a heartfelt story, powerful songs, loveable characters and is visually a feast for the eyes. It is individual and stand alone, a show for all ages and I’m sure it will continue to play to packed houses all around the world and become timeless. The visual journey we go on continues to astound with stampedes, the Savanna, the Jungle, and an Elephant graveyard just a few of the incredible sights the Lion King presents. The costumes and masks are inspiring and beautiful, you are engrossed from the very start!
I urge theatre fans to get a ticket while you still can to see this astounding production, it is a true theatrical experience that you will never forget.
THE LION KING continues at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 28th September.
Tickets are available here:
The Lion King Trailer: