Advantages Visually Amazing, Cleverly Lit
Disadvantages Lacks that certain something; too many puppets
"My jaw hit my knees," one reviewer at The Express said of the stage version of The Lion King, and I have to question that as I reckon that's probably anatomically impossible. However, they went on to say: "Is The Lion King as good as they say it is? - Dammit, yes!"With such ringing, if slightly dumbed-down, endorsements as that, and others like this: "It lights up the West End with a blaze of fabulous imagination," (The Evening Standard) and "A ravishing spectacle, I can hardly wait to see it again," (The Mail On Sunday), my wife and I were utterly thrilled when we were given tickets for Christmas to go and see this show.
Adapted in 1999 by Tim Rice and Elton John from the 1994 Disney animated movie, The Lion King, this stage production tells the story of Simba, a young lion cub who is set to inherit his father's kingdom. Unfortunately, for the young cub, his uncle Scar is none-too-happy about being displaced as the heir to the throne and sets out to take his rightful place as King. To do this, he must dispose of Simba's father, Mustafa, and the young cub himself. Fortunately, for Simba, once Mustafa is dead Scar leaves the murder of the young King to his faithful, but incredibly dippy and lazy, subjects, the Hyenas, who can't be bothered to follow the fleeing Simba and instead decide to kill him if he returns to Pride Rock.The stage show remains true to the original movie and keeps faithful to the storyline. Simba meets Pumbaa and Timon, a warthog and a meerkat who befriend him and look after him until he becomes a fully-grown lion. While all this is going on, Scar has all but desecrated the lion pride, over-hunting the herds and leaving the hard work to the lionesses and lazy hyenas.
Inevitably, Simba's young female friend from childhood, Nala, stumbles across Simba as she hunts further out into the wild and persuades Simba to return to the pride to restore order.The stage version adds a razzmatazz to the story that the film never carried, the lighting is phenomenal, the music moving and thunderous throughout, with recognised titles 'Circle of Life' and 'Can't Wait To Be King' getting their fair share of the audience warbling along to them, and the cast perform impeccably. Despite this, I felt like I was sitting in my own little bubble, removed from the rest of the audience. Not because I was in awe of what I was seeing, but because everybody around me was thoroughly enchanted by the show, clapping, cheering and gasping in awe at the spectacle on the stage before them. Their rapture didn't lift me and I found myself slightly let down by my expectations.
Yes, the show is visually, technically and choreographically clever and amazing, but - for me - the tale of The Lion King does not migrate well from animated film cell to the stage. Everything looked clever, but the whole event seemed to lack something, some emotion, something captivating. To bring the event to life, to give it its Safari appeal, many of the acts are done through puppets, shadows or specially adapted costumes that, whilst very cleverly done, left me more in mind of a back street Chinese Puppet Show than a glitzy West End Production.
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