Newest Review: ... looked like a baby lioness surrounded by grown lionesses, full of grace and elegance. The music of the Lion King is obviously well-known... more
I'm not LION, it left me FELINE grrrrrreat
Member Name: MarcoG
Advantages: Suitable for all ages. Highly theatrical. Catchy music
Disadvantages: Expensive tickets. Expensive merchandise!
I've taken the chance to share with you all my views on one of London's hottest shows at the moment...THE LION KING!
As EVERYONE probably knows, Disney's THE LION KING started life as an animated film from 1994 - winning 2 oscars. You could be forgiven for thinking how on earth can they put this animation where the central characters are animals, on stage. Following Disney's broadway smash, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Julie Taymor (LION KING Director) and her team really pulled this one of the bag and has won countless awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical. The theatricality involved in this production is immense. Do not, for one moment think you will be watching people dressed up as animals a la 'pantomine horse'...the audience are invited to take a leap of imagination on a journey through the African plains to Pride Rock and meet the mane (nothing like a good pun) characters.
What's it all about?:
Extremely quick run down of the plot...Simba is a cub and heir to the 'throne' of Pride Rock. His evil Uncle Scar wants to become King, so hatches a plot to kill Mufusa (Simba's fathers) and frame Simba as the murderer - causing him to exile Pride Rock and live the life of a vagabond Lion in the jungle where he meets the infamous duo, Timon and Pumbaa, who teach him about the simplicities of Life and where Simba learns to face up to his past. As he grows into a young lion, and with help from certain friends, he decides to return and face his past. The plot is basically the same as the Disney animation, except more attention has been paid to Simba's inner struggle, life journey and coming to terms of what he has (supposedly) done to his family.
So, where can I see it?
The show is on at the Lyceum, which is a beauitful theatre in itself and fully air-conditioned for added comfort. It has superb transport links as it is in the heart of London's West End, and a few minutes walk from Covent Garden tube station, on the Piccadilly line (which is the dark blue one, for all those non-tubey folk). Covent Garden in SURROUNDED by restaurants to make your evening or matinee extra special too.
What about show times?
The show runs 8 performances a week, with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There is also a Sunday performance on at 3pm. Tickets can cost anywhere between £12.50 (standing) to £47.50 (top price). One time with a spare Sunday on my hands in London, we walked pass the theatre and popped in on the off chance of getting standby tickets, only to get front row circle tickets...AN HOUR BEFORE IT STARTED! These were cancellations, but you could be just as lucky - it wasn't lucky on my bank balance unfortunately as they weren't reduced in price. The show lasts for approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes with a 20 minute interval.
How does it look?
Visually, this show is OUTSTANDING! The colours and shapes on stage will blow your mind, even if the nothing else interests you. Before I saw this show for the first time, I thought, how the blinky blonky are they going to create such scenes as 'the stampede' and even the 'Circle of Life'... In my humble opinion, THE LION KING has THE best opening sequence I have ever seen on any stage, in any theatre. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I would recommend trying to get seats in the stalls for this, AND DO NOT BE LATE! The puppetry awaiting you, is phenomenal! I was truly moved and humbled by the imagination and vision of the show's creators! Anyhoo...enough of the pretentious transcendental guff...
What are the costumes like?
The Costumes and Puppetry were breathtakingly beautiful. They have taken elements from various cultures and theatrical devices, including huge life size puppets, mechanical cog/cam mechanisms, shadow puppets and Japanese bunraku puppets - don't you know! There are moments when the audience is fully involved with the puppetry/action on stage, as 'elements' (gosh, this is so hard trying not to give anything away) come out to the audience. Some actors also have beautifully carved headpieces that can be raised and lowered, aiding the impression that they are cats (you'll see what I mean when you see it, the picture for this 'product' shows what I mean). Not only are the costumes beautiful but in some cases, the actors help make up the set too. As well as puppetry, we see acrobatics, awesome african and tribal dances, good acting and singing...the list goes on.
But, is the story any good?
People have said that the plot isn't up to much, but don't let the (perhaps) lacking plot ruin the show for you. The stage show does delve more into Simba's 'internal struggle' and his 'journey' as he faces up to his past, considerably more than the film ever did, but Hamlet, this isn't! The plot is simple, so accessable to all, especially for children. There is comedy from the unlikely duo Pumbaa and Timon (who are a warthog and meerkat respectively) and tragedy also.
What is the music like?
For those of you that aren't familiar with The Lion King, the stage musical has some new songs added in (including music from the sequel animation film, THE LION KING 2), aswell as songs using the instrumental score of the original film, with added lyrics.
If anyone's interested...the songs are (in order):
1) Circle of Life
2) Grasslands Chant
3) Morning Report
4) Lioness Hunt
5) I Just Can't Wait to Be King
6) Chow Down
7) They Live in You
8) Be Prepared
10) Rafiki Mourns
11) Hakuna Matata
12) One by One
13) Madness of King Scar
15) Lion Sleeps Tonight
16) Endless Night
17) Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
18) He Lives in You (Reprise)
19) Simba Confronts Scar [Instrumental]
20) King of Pride Rock/Circle of Life (Reprise)
Something I especially love about the stage show, is that it stays true to it's African origins. Rafiki (this version, unlike the film, is played by a woman, as an 'earth mother' figure) sometimes talks in African dialect that uses 'clicks' - I saw a documentary about the making on this stage show, where one the actresses playing Rafiki, said it took her almost 1 month to learn 10 lines!! The african chants, as orchestrated by Lebo M, are truly beautiful and evoke a true sense of the African landscape. When in the audience, you can also see some of the musicians too in the boxes, with their huge African instuments. I know a few schools who have taken their children to see this show, with the sole purpose of introducing them to other cultures.
Who would the show appeal to?
In my experience, the audience was made up of a mixture of children and adults. However, I have seen this show about 7 times now, and on the evening shows, the majority is adults, but the matinees are quite kiddie heavy - as one would expect really. I'm 100% confident that all ages can get something out of this show.
Hmm, what else?...
The merchandise is beautiful, but incredibly pricey. There are no cuddling Disney-esque toys - but beautiful 'stuffed' toys replecating the characters and costumes on stage. If you are a Disney fan with lots of money, you will have a field day in the shop! If you aren't a Disney fan, you will hate it (obviously)! BUT BE WARNED...IF you are taking a party of children, in true Disney-let's-squeeze-as-much-money-out-of-the-punt ers-as-possible style, in order to get to your seats, you have to walk through the gift shop, so be prepared for cries of 'ooo can I get a simba?' (which cost's a million pounds...well, maybe not that much)
To sum up:
If you can afford a ticket and want to see something special...a far cry away from shows such as Phantom, Les Mis etc...then this show is for you. The translation from animation to stage is outstanding and theatricality emense. Enjoy the visual feast awaiting you!
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2008
(also on ciao)
Summary: Superb screen to stage adaptation, if you can afford it, don't miss out!