The Lion King is now Broadway's eighth longest-running show in history. Very impressive! I first saw the play when it first came to Toronto around a decade ago. Last week, I brought my son to opening night of the latest production of Lion King playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre.
Here's why your kids (and you) should see it.
This is probably the most inventive theatrical production I've ever seen. The visual use of integrated puppetry was jaw dropping in its originality. The effect of the simulated animals is like visual poetry.
Everything about this show is stunning. The costumes are magnificent - drawn from African culture - the use of beading and African inspired fabric make for eye candy and help tell the story. I loved how many of the costumes enable the actors to become a living breathing set. The scenes with gorgeous dancers wearing stunning flower and grass costumes make the jungle come alive.
The story is timeless
Initially based on the Biblical tales of Joseph and Moses with some of Shakespeare's Hamlet sprinkled in, the storyline of father/son is mythic and resonates with audiences young and old.
Everyone knows the Elton John/ Tim Rice pop hit The Circle of Life considered the cornerstone musical number in the show. However, not enough is said about the stunning South African inspired music and melodies chanted throughout the show. The powerful voices from the cast fill the theatre - the cross cultural sounds a true musical treat. My son and I loved the two percussionists who take over the balconies on both sides of the audience, adding an authentic element of rhythm and atmosphere.
Because this show is anthromorphic, it's always challenging making animals take on human qualities. In this case, the inspired direction allows everyone on stage to take on the personality and movements of the animal they're playing. Giraffes, birds, hyenas and, of course lions, stalk, fly and lumber across the stage. Their nuanced performances help us escape into a world of imagination.
As fantastic as all the stars of the show were, my son and I agreed our favorite performers were some of the smaller roles that stole the show - Brenda Mhlongo made the character of Rafiki a stand-out.
My only regret
My regret has nothing to do with the show. Instead, I'm disappointed my husband and daughter weren't at the show with us to enjoy this amazing show. I have a feeling I'll be seeing Lion King again soon, this time with my whole family.