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The Lion King:
I have fond memories of the 1990’s when my children were young and were forever watching the 1994 Disney film version of the Lion King. I was well accustomed at the time to singing along to Elton John and Tim Rice’s famous soundtrack, as we listened to it on car journeys, but somehow I never managed to get to see it live on stage.
Now many years later, I have finally had the opportunity to see this multi-award-winning, long-running triumph of a production directed by Julie Taymor, which first opened at London’s Lyceum in 1999 and has been dubbed “the most successful live production of all time”.
Seated in the stalls of this magnificent theatre, there was great excitement in the air; the audience, which was made up of all ages seemed to know they were in for a treat.
The opening number ‘Circle of Life’ lived up to all expectations with its kaleidoscopic of colour and warmth, which had the audience rapt, I looked around the auditorium to see everyone open-mouthed in awe or grinning ear to ear as the extraordinarily brilliant life-size, visibly manipulated animal puppets crossed the stage or paraded up the aisles of the theatre. There were giant elephants, beautiful statuesque giraffes, zebras, elegant gazelles and birds flying overhead. The boxes on either side of the stage had drum and bongo players whipping up the African rhythms, transporting us to Pride Rock, and giving a real sense of the African outback. As you can imagine my young companion Sonny was completely enchanted!
The plot is admittedly a little thin on the ground. It tells us of the young lion Prince Simba, whose father Mufasa is preparing him for life’s pitfalls and his future position as King when he is cruelly murdered by his jealous brother Scar, the archetypical baddie who has his eye on the throne (a definite similitude to Hamlet). Simba has to learn to grow up and face up to his responsibilities with the help of his friends Timon and Pumbaa. But what this show lacks in narrative it makes up for in bucket loads with its breathtaking visuals and sheer vitality and spirit. The 46 strong cast infuse it with passion and energy.
There are some great performances; I particularly enjoyed Richard Frames humorous Timor and George Aspreys’s sleazy Scar. The children playing the young Simba and Nala were exceptionally talented, and rather like the Billy Elliot training school, there is also a The Lion King Cub School where young artists learn the ropes before treading the boards.
The Lion King is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes and one of those shows with a genuinely universal appeal. Elton John and Tim Rice’s anthemic pop numbers tick all the right boxes and are played alongside the more as earthy, soul-stirring African arrangements.
It was a late night for Sonny, and there were a few scary moments where he hid behind his programme, but all in all he was so utterly captivated by the pure colour scale of the performance, as was I, and I left wondering why it had taken me so long to see this richly imagined spectacular production.
The Lyceum Theatre
21 Wellington St,
London WC2E 7RQ
To book tickets – click here