Tag Archives: The Lion King

On Stage: The Lion King

Disney’s “The Lion King” has returned to St. Louis for a 19-day run at the Fox Theatre. If you’re a lover of spectacle, puppetry, African music, animals and fart jokes, get your tickets now.

Based on the 1994 animated film of the same name, “The Lion King” was brought to Broadway in 1997.  It went on to win more than 70 global theatrical awards, including the Tony for Best Musical. It has been seen by more than 90 million people over the last 20 years and has brought in a whole lotta money — “The Lion King’s” worldwide gross is more than that of any one movie, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.

Written by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi with songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, the stage version is beefed up with African-influenced music by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Hans Zimmer and Julie Taymor. Taymor, who served as director, costume designer and co-designer (along with Michael Curry) of the show’s masks and puppets, is credited with cracking the seemingly impossible task of bringing a cartoon animal movie to life on stage.

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Buyui Zama as Rafiki in “The Lion King” North American Tour. Photo by Joan Marcus 

We all know the story, right? Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) is king of the African Pridelands and Scar (Mark Campbell) is his deadbeat brother. Scar would like to be king but Mufasa and new son Simba (Devin Graves and Jordan Williams as a child; Dashaun Young as an adult) stand in the way — unless he’s willing to commit regicide — which he is.

After his father’s death, Simba runs away and is befriended by the meerkat Timon (Nick Cordileone) and warthog Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz). He later encounters old friend/future flame Nala (Nia  Holloway), who informs him that his homeland has become a mess since Scar and his hyena buddies took over. Now, with encouragement from the somewhat crazy monkey Rafiki (usually Buyui Zama but played by Mukelisiwe Goba at Thursday’s opening night), Simba must confront his past and face his future.

“The Lion King” is filled with outrageous, colorful costumes as well as bold, colorful set designs and a talented cast of actors, singers, dancers and puppeteers. The songs, including modern Disney classics “Circle of Life,” “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” is greatly enhanced by the addition of African music and rhythms.

“The Lion King”runs through May 7 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

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On Stage: The Lion King

If you’re looking for one more special effects spectacle to enjoy before summer ends, don’t head to a movie theater. Head to the Fox Theatre where Disney’s live musical production of “The Lion King” just launched an 18-day run.

Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from Disney’s THE LION KING National Tour. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

I was never a big fan of “The Lion King.” I don’t care for anthropomorphized cartoon animals, with the exception of the Looney Tunes gang… and Bullwinkle… and Perry the Platypus. And the prospect of people dressed up like animals gives me nightmares of “Cats” — the worst musical of all time.

I am pleased to report that “The Lion King” is not “Cats,” although I guess lions are cats of a sort. It’s also better than the movie it’s based on, and a truly immersive theatrical experience. At times a myriad of creatures fill the stage, the aisles and the balcony.

Do we really need a plot synopsis for “The Lion King?” Well, it’s a good way to list the talent so let’s breeze through it: Monkey shaman Rafiki (Buyi Zama) calls together the animal kingdom to celebrate the birth of Simba (Zavion J. Hill/Adante Power as a youth; Jelani Remy as an adult) to Lion King Mufasa (Dionne Randolph). Simba’s uncle Scar (Brent Harris), envious of his brother’s station, plots Mufasa’s death with help from his hyena pals (Rashada Dawan, Keith Bennett, Robbie Smith).

Scar convinces Simba he’s responsible for Mufasa’s death by stampede and the young cub runs away to the jungle, where he’s befriended by comedy duo Timon (Nick Cordileone) and Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz). A chance encounter with childhood friend Nala (Khali Bryant/Kailah McFadden/Sade Philip-Demorcy (youth), Syndee Winters as an adult) forces Simba to rethink his carefree existence.

The stage version of “The Lion King” features a colorful and fantastic array of costumes and puppetry used to bring the African savanna to life. The actors, singers and dancers were all in top form. The show expands on the original Elton John/Tim Rice score, including a much heavier African influence. The set design is sharp and the film’s complicated scenes were cleverly translated to the stage.

It’s a joyous and engaging show for children of all ages — provided they’re well behaved. Although I will say that at last night’s performance it was the adults behind us who made more noise than any children in our section.

The Lion King runs through Sept. 2.  http://www.fabulousfox.com/