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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 12
Long live The Lion King!
Arts & Entertainment
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Long live The Lion King!

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

THE LION KING
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through April 6


The Lion King is perhaps the greatest example of movie to stage that can be presented from today's Broadway - OK, feature length cartoon to stage. The costumes have become legendary and the usage of puppetry and actors together has changed theatre, opening the doors for many other great musicals. And now The Lion King roars its way back into Seattle.

The story is classic Disney with help from the great Bard, Shakespeare. Mufasa is the Lion King of the Jungle, ruling Pride Rock with his Queen Sarabi. Announcing the birth of their son Simba, all the creatures of the jungle come out to pay homage. Except for the young Prince's uncle Scar. Bitter from being moved in the line of succession, Scar plots with hyena henchmen to do away with Mufasa. The King is murdered and convinced by Scar that it is his fault Simba runs away and meets two fellow outcasts: a warthog named Pumpa and a meerkat named Timon. The threesome build a strong friendship over the years as the young cub grows into an adult lion. When they accidentally run into Nala, a childhood lioness friend from Simba's pride, she shares that Scar has taken over the kingdom and is slowly killing the Savannah. Simba realizes his uncle set him up and returns to the pride vowing revenge and to claim his rightful place.

There are several main leads of the musical and each one gets to shine in their own turn. Rafiki (played by Brown Lindiwe Mkhize) is the shamanistic monkey that calls the creatures of the jungle together in the opening Circle of Life. She adds comic relief to the storyline. Mufasa (L. Steven Taylor) does a good job showing his admiration for his son while shouldering the responsibilities of the jungle's rule. His voice is deep and rich, adding a certain power to the beautiful song 'They Live in You' where Mufasa teaches his son about the guidance and lineage of his ancestors. Scar (played by Patrick R. Brown) is the perfect Disney villain. While not physically threatening, the menacing personality comes through as he reveals his usurping plot in 'Be Prepared.' While the two cubs, young Simba (alternatively Jordan Hall and Nathaniel Logan Mcintyre) and his young lioness friend Nala (alternatively Nya Cymone Carter and Tyrah Skye Odoms) show their youthful energy and ambitions in the song 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King.' It is the adult version that really allows their voices to be heard. Adult Simba (played by Jelani Remy) has his shining moment with the song 'Endless Night.' Nala's song 'Shadowlands' is hauntingly beautiful as she is torn between staying with her pride and leaving for survival.

However, the real star of this show is without a doubt Julie Taymor's costume designs. A giraffe being represented by actors on stilts walking across the stage or a flock of brightly colored birds twirling around the audience's heads is what makes this production such an eyeful spectacle. Life-sized African creatures come to life with the help of incredible and beautiful puppetry, so much that the actors manipulating the puppets are quickly forgotten and erased from the scenery. When Rifiki calls the animals to Pride Rock, they literally appear throughout the theater and make a great pageantry of coming down the aisles to pay homage to their King and the young prince. Without the pageantry and puppetry of Ms. Taymor's brilliant visionary costumes, The Lion King would be another watered-down, children's version of Hamlet.

The Lion King is based on the feature length Disney cartoon that was released in 1994. The music and lyrics were written by Sir Elton John and Tim Rice who won the Academy Award (1995) for Best Original Song 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight,' and nominated for 'Circle of Life' and 'Hakuna Matata.' With the transfer to Broadway in 1997 the same creative team wrote additional songs for the stage production.

The Lion King had its official Broadway opening on November 13, 1997 and has been playing to full houses ever since. The Lion King is the winner of six 1998 Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. With performance number 6782 (as of March 9, 2014) and still playing nightly, The Lion King ranks #4 (between Chicago #3 and Les Misérables #5) on the list of longest-running Broadway Shows.

NOTE: The Paramount Theatre will be bringing four other longest-running Broadway musicals to Seattle for their 2014-2015 season: Beauty and the Beast #8 (October 2014), Mamma Mia! #9 (March 2015), Wicked! #11 (July 2015) and the longest running Broadway musical in history The Phantom of the Opera #1 (April 2015).

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