Disney's THE LION KING, the Broadway Musical, is a Roaring Success!

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Lion King Broadway

Hakuna Matata! It means no worries! And that's exactly what you'll have when you go see the off-broadway production of Disney's THE LION KING.

On tour, to bring this brilliant musical production to a city near you, it is currently in Syracuse, NY for 3 weeks. At the vintage, and beautiful, Landmark Theater, I wasn't quite sure if it could accomodate a show with large set pieces and near life-size elephant costumes.

But they pulled it off.

The opening to the broadway musical, just as with the movie, is so important to grip the audience. For the presentation of Simba, the players walked down the aisles where you sit. Their beautiful animal costumes were on full display. Gathering on stage, as Mufasa and Nala walk up Pride Rock, Rafiki soon joins them. Holding baby Simba aloft, the doll moved it's arms and legs to show some life.

As the chorus reached it's finale the lights went dark with the final drum beat. Giving me chills, just like I got the first time I saw the movie. The audience roared with approval.

You should not expect it to be a carbon copy of the original motion picture, though.

The musical takes some liberties with the original animated movie and the jokes have been updated to maintain relevance. For example: When Scar asks Zazu to sing a more upbeat song, Zazu no longer sings "It's a Small World". Instead he sings a more recent insta-classic, overplayed, Disney song that will make everyone grateful for when Scar says, "Not that! Anything but that!"

Much of the original dialogue is retained, however on occasion they found ways to keep it fresh with some variation. Much of the enunciation doesn't line up with what you're expecting, which was a welcome surprise. At first it felt a little off, but I came to realize that this really helped make the stage production stand on its own.

The special effects that were used were absolutely mind blowing. As Simba is encouraged to look at his reflection, the entire stage went dark, save for hundreds of little green lights. Shapes began floating in the background, as Simba knelt on the stage looking at his reflection. Suddenly a giant, majestic image of Mufasa's face was formed, hovering over the stage like a ghost.

It was one of the most amazing things I've witnessed in a live production.

All the performances were wonderfully done, most importantly the young actors that portrayed Simba and Nala. Two actors are used to portray those characters for certain performances, most likely to lessen the burden of such a huge undertaking. Nevertheless, the energy they brought a wonderful amount of energy to the stage, to simulate the playful nature of the lion cubs. It's one thing to see child actors on TV where so much coaching occurs between scenes, but to be a part of a live production, in front of such a big audience, is really something special.

Post elephant graveyard scene, the emotion between Mufasa and young Simba was felt all the way up in the balcony. And once again after the chill inducing Wildebeast scene. If you were concerned about how they would pull off all the massive power behind a stampede of Wildebeasts, well, then I say: "Hakuna Matata"!

The Wildebeasts came out in full force. Lights, actors in costumes, and models were used to offer a stage full of controlled chaos and depth. The scene was absolutely breathtaking to watch unfold.

For all of the emotions that Disney's THE LION KING makes you feel, it still finds ways to make you laugh. Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa, and sometimes Rafiki, are right on cue when the audience needs a pick-me-up. Timon's "luau" scene was on point. In the blink of an eye, they were able to have Timon pop into the spotlight, dressed in a drag and doing the 'Hula'.

The real stars of this musical could easily be the costume and set designers. They have gone above and beyond to develop innovative solutions for the challenges of a stage production such as this.

There were a couple of musical numbers that were NOT a part of the original animated classic. Which wouldn't be so bad except you can clearly tell they weren't composed by the legendary Tim Rice and Elton John; they felt out of place. Not that it was awful, it just broke up the flow a little as you are sidetracked from the story you're used to. There was a scene where Scar talks of choosing a mate in order to have an heir to his kingdom. He sets his sights on Nala, which was a bit awkward, but still fitting of Shakespearean drama. Which, if you recall, much of THE LION KING is inspired by HAMLET.

Unfortunately there isn't any room to elaborate on that plot point, so the scene becomes isolated and never mentioned again. Which is probably the ONLY misstep the production has in its entirety.

Another musical number NOT in the original movie, "He Lives in You", appears a couple of times to support the re-occurring theme. This was the only piece that felt like it truly belonged because it was a part of an album released several years after the movie. Titled, RETURN TO PRIDE ROCK, the album featured many compositions inspired by the original motion picture soundtrack.

The cost of attending Disney's THE LION KING can put a dent in your entertainment expenses, especially if you plan to bring the whole family. Which you would want to do, given the nature of the production. In the long run, the investment is well worth it to see an extremely talented cast adorned in some of the most amazing costumes you'll ever see for a live production where wild animals are the only characters.

Disney's THE LION KING, the Broadway Musical, is powerful and will resonate with the entire family.

Check out the entire North American Tour schedule, to see when Disney's THE LION KING Broadway Musical is in your area.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0