Disney’s the Lion King opened in Vancouver this week as eager crowds of young and old gathered to watch the Broadway adaptation of this modern classic.
Right off the top of the show, the crowd is dazzled as the opening number “Circle of Life” brought together the entire African animal kingdom creating a moving multicoloured savanna right on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The performance is 360 degrees of bright flowing colours, dramatic lights, and fantastically animated characters that combine human motion with animal instincts.
Mufasa, Simba, Nala, Rafiki and the infamous Scar play out the familiar story of the Lion King with several new songs including the touching “They/He Lives in You”, which wasn’t in the movie but was on the motion picture’s “Rhythm of the Pridelands” compilation.
I attended with my 10 year old niece Alexis and got some of her thoughts on the performance. “It was funny,” she said. When I asked what made it funny she replied, “the talking bird was hilarious.” She was referring to Zazu, the attendant of King Mufasa, played by Tony Freeman. As with some of the other animals in the production, the bird was a puppet controlled by a bright and dapper handler. The cheekiest parts were when the two (Zazu the bird and Freeman as the handler and voice of Zazu) had interactions with each other.
Another high point for Alexis was hearing local references in the performance, which created something new yet familiar for those who live in specifically in Metro Vancouver. I won’t say exactly what it was but hopefully you’ll spot it when you see the Lion King for yourself.
At first I worried Alexis would think the show was bizarre as the animals aren’t simply people in costumes and paint. They are fully interactive, combining human with creature by way of costumes, puppets, masks and headdresses. However, she was just as impressed and dazzled as I was with the ingenuity. She’s been quoting Zazu for the last 12 hours and this morning at breakfast she illustrated how some of the animals were portrayed by drawing giraffes on her napkin in crayon.
Brenda Mhlongo was brilliant as Rafiki, adapting the baboon with a powerful female voice and tying together the scenes and settings of the story with each wisdom-filled appearance. Yet another character that still makes Alexis giggle.
Mufasa (Dionne Randolph), Scar (Nicholas Carriere), Simba (young: Kolton Stewart; adult: Adam Jacobs) and Nala (young: Monique Lee; adult: Syndee Winters) belted out the tunes while being lion-like with their proud, subtle, and cat-like maneuvers on stage.
The ensemble was so lively and harmonic that I could have listened to them sing all night, even if the curtains had closed and the audience was long gone.
If you have the chance to take in the Lion King this summer during its run (until August 8th), I highly recommend it for all ages 6 and up — even the “scary” parts weren’t too scary says my niece. There is one intermission for about 15 minutes and the total show time of 2 hours and 30 minutes is manageable for the young ones.