The Lion King
Directed by: Julie Taymor
Adapted from screenplay by: Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton
Music and Lyrics by: Elton John and Tim Rice, Additional Music and Lyrics: Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, Hans Zimmer
TICKETS: through April 6th
Masked Lions, Giant Elephant, Stilted Giraffes, Oh My!
Recently I was one of a few thousand awed audience members of the Lion King performed at The Paramount theater. I was so in awe, in fact, that I watched the entirety of show with tear filled eyes and an unseemly gaping mouth. However, no one around me would have noticed as they were captivated in the exact same manner.
We all know the Disney story of The Lion King, but the story takes on a whole new entity performed in a theater. The world on stage was brought alive with a versatile ensemble of dancing grasslands and half man, half puppet savanna animals. These animals gracefully emulated the balance of the food chain and the animalistic community of Pride Rock. Everything from zebras, to cheetahs, to two person rhinoceros, giraffes played by performers on stilts, to a four person elephant all swarmed the stage enveloping the audience in astonishment and glee. The hyenas were particularly astounding to me, transforming humans into curved, hackling, heckling hounds. Their jeering jaws moved in unison with their human counterparts by what appeared to be a system of pulleys. The lions were depicted with flowing clothing and the performers were adorned with elegant masks that sat just above the performers heads. Almost all of the characters were double headed in this way, as the performers’ faces were visible along with the character of that animal. As the performers turned their bodies and communicated with others their human stature evolved into their alternate species bridging the gap between animalia and homo sapiens. If this connection was intentional then genius. If unintentional then it is a great case of accidental genius.
As every theater kid’s dream I watch as an extravagant set of Pride Rock and the Elephant Graveyard glide across the stage with inconspicuous, effortless magic. A large golden rising sun and Rafiki’s baobab tree are sights to behold as the set becomes more complex and detailed as the production proceeds. I do not wish to describe further because I do not want to spoil the surprises of how the cartoon version we all know is masterfully conveyed by this production. Although, even if I could describe it all for you with perfect clarity you would still be wowed and baffled by the experience.
The talent of the performers mirror the flawless beauty of the set and costumes. A bold voiced Mufasa, played by L. Steven Taylor, reverberated in my chest as the performances of young Simba and Nala lightened my heart. Great performances from absolutely everyone in the cast and the amazing ensemble! Above all, Brown Lindiwe Mkhize, who played Rafiki, brought down the house, and raised every goose bump my body could muster, with her exceptional, insanely controlled voice. I swear to you, I could hear Mkhize sing every day for the rest of my life and I would never grow tired of listening. Ever.
For a once in a lifetime experience I highly recommend taking yourself to see this production. I guarantee you will be gushing as much as I am for days after the experience. And if you can pull yourself out of the amazing world of The Lion King for even a moment then look around and see the sea of the faces of astounded, dumbstruck homo sapiens sitting around you.
By Missy King