Performed in the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, The Lion King is a spectacular production that people of every age can enjoy. Based on Disney’s original animated movie, knowing the movie was not a requirement to enjoy the show and the timeless story of growing up, hardship and accepting responsibility. The theatre was full of young adults in their twenties, possibly reliving the memories of their childhood. It was definitely an emotional experience for many in the audience.
The set design was spectacular starting with the opening scene of a fiery orange savannah sunrise with a simple cloth and wood sun rising against it. The story’s journey continued through the plains of Africa to forested, emerald jungles and the dead, barren wasteland of the elephant graveyard. The lush use of color and a variety of simple props effectively created each landscape. Actors were used as props and part of the scenes, dancing and moving about with grass on their heads and becoming the flowers and trees themselves.
Into these sets stepped the actors in costumes that were the showpiece of the play. The costumes were as bright as the scenery with a wide variety of design features. Some costumes focused heavily on puppetry, with little of the actors’ bodies visible such as Pumba and Timon and most of the animal ensemble. Others had a minimal amount of puppetry, mostly the main cast of lions. Mufasa and Scar had beautifully designed masks that would fall down over their faces when they crouched, adopting the guise of the true predator they were portraying. The older Simba, Nala and the rest of the lion pride had firmly attached lion masks on the top of their heads while the costumes for the young Simba and Nala used no puppetry or masks at all. Each costume brought the character to life in the most enchanting way that interacted with the stunning African environment in a creative manner that left the audience in awe.
Anyone who saw the original Disney movie recognized most of the music. The addition of original songs composed for the play did not disrupt from the flow of the story and were powerful in their own right, such as ‘He Lives in You’ sung by Mufasa and later Rafiki who had a truly powerful and authentic voice.
The actors created the perfect balance of human and animal as they moved on the stage. Most were controlling puppets, pretending to be creatures that were not human. Seeing them as human and animal was part of the charm of the show. The movements of their bodies reflected the animals they portrayed; the lions crouched and roared, danced with a ferocity easily associated with the large cats, while the antelopes jumped gracefully, even as they were being chased by lions. Timon walked with a lazy swagger, as did Pumba, clearly embodying their ‘Hakuna Matata’ lifestyle. What was magical was how these actors portrayed the emotion of the story. Disney had no trouble giving animated creatures the ability to display their emotions. The actors used everything they had to give puppets and masks the ability to project emotion and evoke the same feelings from the audience. Their voices when they sang, their body language when they moved, and their interactions with the other actors made everything seem alive and real.
The Lion King continues to be popular, even as the years have gone by, by bringing to life the beloved story many of us knew as children. The audience sang, cried and laughed throughout the show. The color, costumes, and actors bring vitality and energy to the stage, leaving the audience amazed and moved as they leave the theatre. No doubt The Lion King will be running on Broadway for many years to come.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on November 27, 2013 12:34 PM.
The Magician - UMD Stage 2 was the previous entry in this blog.
Elf the Musical - Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago IL is the next entry in this blog.
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