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
The Ultimate Family Theatre Experience
Member Name: glitter_princess
Advantages: Wonderful music, costumes, great un-Disneyfied adaptation
I first saw The Lion King in the West End when it opened in 1999 and was very dubious about how well it would transfer from the screen to the stage. However, as soon as the curtain went up, all of my expectations were blown away. The Lion King is the perfect family show and it's easy to see why it still plays to sell out audiences now and why it was both mine and my sister's top choice to see on our recent trip to New York, despite having seen it only a few months before in the West End.
The Lion King plays in London at the Lyceum Theatre on the Strand, easily accessible from Charing Cross station or Covent Garden. Sadly, due to its wide appeal and popularity, tickets aren't cheap and are not easy to get hold of - expect to pay between £25 and £60 for tickets and definitely book well in advance - but it plays every day except Monday, including matinee performances on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (no evening performance on Sunday).
The plot will no doubt be familiar to anyone who's seen the Disney film - Simba, a young and rebellious lion, is set to inherit his father's kingdom, much to his Uncle Scar's resentment. When Scar plans a coup, Simba flees the kingdom, striking up a friendship with a meerkat and a warthog, as his kingdom falls into difficulty.
Despite being based on the original Disney film, the production is not "Disney-fied", which had been my cynical worry before seeing it. The actors are not dressed in the suits that you'd see them in at Disneyland - instead their costumes use different forms of puppetry, allowing the actors to act with their faces, while at the same time embodying the animal they are playing, without being restricted by their costume, whether they are playing a lion, cheetah, gazelle, or even elephant. The costumes are undoubtedly one of the stars of the show, giving a real African feel - I won't say much more than if you can afford it, I would thoroughly recommend sitting downstairs in the stalls as it's a very special experience!
The set design is equally clever - fairly minimalistic but very functional, with the chorus often forming part of the scenery.
All of the familiar favourite Elton John and Tim Rice songs from the film are included in the stage show, as well as the inspired addition of two beautiful Hans Zimmer tunes (one of which was included in the original film, but not as a song) which are turned into two of the show's standout songs - Shadowlands and Endless Night. Shadowlands is one of my favourite songs ever - many's the time I've had it on repeat singing along at the top of my voice!
As soon as I heard that first African tribal call that opens the show and the curtain went up, all my cynicism about Disney disappeared - it's not a show that relies on its stars to sell tickets, or on cheap gimmicks, it's quite simply one of the most magical theatrical spectacles I've seen on stage - take your children, take your family, take your friends, but just go!
Summary: A wonderful piece of theatre for all the family
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