Schofie

Disney’s The Lion King: The Musical

In Play Reviews on August 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm

A Review

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What happens when traditional African soul meets vibrant expressionistic dance midst a tale of power, deceit, love and a lot of Hakuna Matata? You get Disney’s The Lion King: The Broadway Musical. I recently saw this lively production on tour at the Belk Theater in Charlotte, NC where I was swept away to the pride lands and re-discovered a beloved childhood story in a bold, new light.

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The Lion King is masterfully staged with eye-popping puppetry that makes you double take. (Where does the puppet begin and become the actor?!) Original director (and costume, mask and puppet designer) Julie Taymor, truly delivers with this production. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the stage – that is unless you turn to witness giraffes and elephants along with the star characters travel down the aisles.

Each actor is perfectly blended with his animal so that you believe he is the character he claims. Well done to the actors as well as the designers for this feat. Being a five foot bird is a hard thing to sell to an audience, but I never doubted Zazu (played by Andrew Gorell) for a moment.

The character development is explored more in this production than in the film, which allows for strong, relatable performances. Most characters were delivered flawlessly; however, there were a few moments where I felt the character connection was lost. This happened most often with the child actors but did not heavily impact the overall production. The adult versions of Simba and Nala (Jelani Remy and Nia Holloway) deliver powerful performances. Nala’s moving vocals and stage presence in “Shadowland” and Simba’s character development in “He Lives in You”(reprise) are strong numbers.

Vocally, Rafiki (played by Tshidi Manye), is the most powerful and soulful. She has incredible control over her voice and fluidly rang out lyrics (that are often in Zulu) yet the audience understands what she is saying through her spot on acting.

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Somewhat ironically, the winning performance of this production is by the “loser” in the storyline. Scar (played by Patrick R. Brown) is the most solid throughout the show and seemed the most seasoned of the cast. He won the audience over from his very first moment on stage, without even saying a word, and continued to comically and satirically captivate the audience.

Other memorable performances are by Timon and Pumba (Nick Cordileone and Ben Lipitz) and Mufasa (L. Steven Taylor).

The music and lyrics (by Elton John and Tim Rice) contain the favorites from the film and add new and adapted numbers to create the ambiance of Africa as well as tell the story in a way that connects to a modern audience. The only song that seemed like a piece of the wrong puzzle was “Chow Down”. The number was filled with heavy guitar and drums that did not resemble the rest of the production.

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With a touring production, the lighting often must be able to create the scene and mood without elaborate sets and The Lion King delivers. From sunrises to dark cavernous bone yards, the lighting is superb. It is amazing how each ray of light matches the costumes and set designs perfectly.

The overall feel of the production is tribal, moving and captivating as audiences journey into Africa and discover and rediscover the circle of life through The Lion King.

The production of Disney’s The Lion King: The Broadway Musical is on tour in the US through 2014. Get your tickets online for a theatre near you at http://www.lionking.com.

By Meagan Ingersoll DSC_0252

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