The Lion King is a movie we have all seen. It regularly wins polls for the best Disney movie of all time and there has even been a live action remake. So why spend all this money watching it on stage?
Quite simply put, it’s the best I have ever seen. I have watched The Lion King multiple times but never like this. I took my teenage son with me and he is at that age where he is hard to impress. He even played Scar in his primary schools end of year 6 performance. To say he adored it is definitely a testament to this remarkable production (He loved it so much he even helped me write this review!)
Covid precautions are in place and everyone is asked to wear a mask. Most importantly all adults are checked for proof of vaccination or Covid passes before being allowed into the theatre. This means queuing outside the theatre so it was good we arrived in good time for the performance.
The musical started much like the movie with the fantastic Circle of Life. Ambience noises played and smoke filled the auditorium before the cast burst into song. Animals walked onto the stage one by one, manned by people working puppets and animatronics. There were bigger animals walking in, rhinos and elephants controlled by 4 or 5 people, which caused gasps of joy as they moved down the aisles.
All the amazing singing was accompanied by live music and African drums in the audience boxes. Pride rock rose from the stage creating a jaw dropping scene. All this created a unique and exciting immersive first experience which I will never forget.
The whole stage comes to life with puppetry, costumes and amazing set pieces throughout the whole musical. One of the most beautiful scenes is Simba and Nala playing in the grass, as the living human grass is raised up from under the stage, a whole chorus of actors with elaborate skirts and head pieces who dance, sway and sing as the grass moving in the wind, while puppet lions are manoeuvred above. Never has grass caused me chills before!
The main songs are fun, loud and bright but it’s the unknown numbers, written just for the stage which are mesmerising. One of the best original scenes is the Elephant graveyard which has an original song (chow down) which is an exciting new addition to the already brilliant scene. I still don’t know where those huge elephant bones came from or how they fit on the stage!
We were also treated to an original song from Mufasa which was a fantastic addition, and a heart-breaking number with the Lionesses and Nala when she leaves the pride.
The puppetry really enhances the whole story and is exceptional. The costumes of the main cast move with their bodies to create movement. The animals in the background, either worn by the choir or appearing in the background of a scene, have such detail. Shadow puppetry is also used so cleverly to enhance the narrative in between set pieces.
The whole production is so efficient and slick. I want to see it again just to see how they put it all together. I want to see those animal puppets up close so I can figure out how the lions heads move and turn, and how the back of the cheetah arches when the actor moves, how Pumba’s mouth can open like that!
The gorge scene was very impressive, with model wilderbeasts on motors to create the effect of a stampeed, combined with large heads moved by actors. The show managed to capture the same essence of the movie and one of the things that got a huge reaction from the audience was Mufasa’s death. An epic scene that was a treat to actually see in person.
The cast were excellent. Rafiki the baboon was amazing and the children loved her. Mufasa is an incredible singer as is all the cast, and the cast is huge! The Lion King was just as impressive as I hoped it would be.
It was impressive and jaw dropping, invigorating and a joy to experience. I could have watched it all again the moment it finished and I have a feeling I will be back to watch it again soon.