The Lion King

The opening minutes of The Lion King are truly memorable with Rafiki singing from the stage and two other cast members singing from the dress circle. Down the aisles of the stalls come a huge elephant and a rhinoceros followed by more of the cast singing as they make their way to the stage. On the stage the opening scene is spectacular and there was so much to see that I wanted a pause or rewind button! The giraffes are stilt walkers who are utterly convincing, dancers wear masks and puppets representing gazelle, birds, and a whole continent of creatures.

The skill of the dancers blends the amazingly detailed costumes and choreography to bring a realism to the portrayal of the animals which is astonishing. This is a rite of passage story as Simba, the lion cub, matures to overthrow his wicked uncle who murdered Simba’s father to become King of the Pride.

I haven’t seen the film so really didn’t know what to expect from the stage show. I did have in my head the Elton John hits ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ and ‘The Circle of Life’ and with the Elton John and Tim Rice collaboration I expected to be wowed by the music. I was surprised then to come away feeling the music was the least memorable part of the experience and instead I left with the impression of several spectacular visual moments linked by a thin storyline. There is a wildebeast stampede which is so well done with a combination of a clever set design and masks that you can almost smell the dust. At the opening of Act 2 the auditorium is filled with birds ‘flying’ from long canes waved by actors positioned throughout the theatre while on stage the singers are dressed in colourful African dress and sing ‘One by One’.

Zazu the hornbill adds a local twist with his Scottish accent and at one point breaks into The Proclaimers ‘500 miles’, which brought a warm response from the audience. Visually the show is as stunning as one would expect from Disney and if you part with much hard-earned cash to see it, you won’t be disappointed.

Val Clark

I’d like to add a few thoughts to Val’s review, firstly to say that I agree with all of the above. While I, too, found the John/Rice songs less than memorable, the African element of the music, particularly the choral singing, is vibrant and uplifting.

The whole show is a visual feast, from the dazzling costumes to the brilliantly designed masks and large-as-life puppet animals to the dynamic choreography, it is spectacular from the opening notes.

There’s so much going on, you can’t blink or you’ll miss something. And this, surely is what makes The Lion King what it is, and what had the audience on their feet applauding at the end – nobody came expecting a Shakespearian plot. There is no target audience; this might even be that elusive show that really does have “something for everybody”.

Jim Welsh