It was part of the Circle of Life, so to speak, for my daughter to see the Broadway musical Disney’s “The Lion King.” She’s grown up seeing the story performed at Walt Disney World and is currently acting in the musical at school, so it was only fitting she finally got to see the award-winning Broadway production.
Disney’s “The Lion King” just wrapped up a month of performances in Orlando, and the cast and crew have moved on to their next stop in Birmingham, Ala. While the Broadway musical was in town, though, many of my friends and colleagues attended performances at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center and raved about them. My daughter and I were in the audience for the last performance on Sunday, and we were wowed, as well.
Being Disney fans, we of course are familiar with the story of “The Lion King:” “A lion cub crown prince (Simba) is tricked by a treacherous uncle (Scar) into thinking he caused his father’s (Mufasa’s) death and flees into exile in despair, only to learn in adulthood his identity and his responsibilities.”
In fact, we can see a version of the popular tale every time we go to Animal Kingdom theme park, where The Festival of The Lion King is presented multiple times daily. And as thrilling as that experience is, the Broadway production is entirely different.
“The Lion King” recently celebrated 20 years on Broadway, but the stage show that we saw was reconfigured and relaunched in the fall so that it could be presented in venues that couldn’t previously accommodate it. And boy was it spectacular! The opening number had many of the animals moving down the aisles to the stage and when they passed by us, fellow patrons gasped and applauded in delight at the astonishing and inventive costumes, as well as the sheer size of the elephant.
And those are just the non-speaking animals. The lead characters, with the exception of young Simba and young Nala, wear intricately carved masks that they seamlessly manipulate with their fluid movements around the stage — all while chanting, talking and singing beautifully. There are 6 indigenous African languages sung and spoken throughout the show: Swahili, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana and Congolese.
This version of “The Lion King” is the “perfect marriage of entertainment and art,” according to the New York Daily News.
Ultimately, the audience is left a sense of exuberance for the performance and life in general. It’s truly a celebration. If you’re not ready to move on from the performance — or you’re preparing for the tour to come to your city — here are some ways to immerse yourself in “The Lion King”:
** Relive the first scene, “Circle of Life,” in a 360-degree presentation on lionking.com/about
** Learn the actual choreography for “He Lives In You” from Get Up and Go
** Download a study guide here.
** Watch a series of videos that go backstage to show you how the production is created and comes together.
** Play with a free Snapchat filter of Nala or Simba on http://www.lionking.com/about
** Go shopping at the online store, which carries much of the same merchandise as is offered at each tour stop.
** Write to cast members:
Cast Member Name
c/o THE LION KING, Gazelle Tour
New Amsterdam Theatre
214 West 42th Street
New York, NY 10036
Hakuna Matata, everyone!