There is something truly indescribably magic about The Lion King. Since the musical hit Broadway in 1997 and the West End just two years later, the show has continued to amaze worldwide audiences.
Based on the hit Disney film, we follow little lion cub Simba on his journey to become king. The plot itself is enough to keep an audience gripped, and without giving too many spoilers away anyone who’s ever seen the film or musical will know exactly what parts I’m talking about when I say there are a few tear-jerking moments! That said, the overall vibe is one of light-hearted, uplifting joy as we celebrate the circle of life.
The musical is spellbinding and, even though it’s nearly twenty years old, it never fails to wow. Julie Taymor is an absolute legend in the theatre world for her stunning direction, costume design and mask/puppet co-design. She is an inspiration, and the world she has created is quite literally jaw-dropping. As we’re transported to the very heart of the Pride Lands in Africa, we meet a myriad of beautiful creatures and characters who welcome us into their world.
At times the stage is transformed so seamlessly you don’t always appreciate the staggering beauty in every set, but it’s there. It’s all there. Every creative lighting choice, every small detailing. The Lion King is truly a masterclass in creative staging that you don’t quite have chance to appreciate when you’re so caught up in the sheer majesty of the production.
As a show, The Lion King falls somewhere between a contemporary creative imagining and pantomime, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been a complete fan of the mix and match style but you can’t deny that it works and audiences absolutely fall in love every time. The incredible ensemble numbers are totally magical, but the bubble is sometimes burst for me by the cartoonesque vibe of the film being translated to the stage moments after. Though Timon and Pumbaa provide plenty of light relief, their characters just don’t seem in keeping with powerful feel of the rest of the show. That said, I’m sure the kids in the audience absolutely fell in love with Alan Mchale (Timon) and Carl Sandeson (Pumbaa) who perform their roles brilliantly.
Jean-Luc Guizonne is the perfect Mufasa. He is powerful and demands respect whilst also being completely lovable – a father who would make a lasting impression on any little lion cub!
I also simply adore Matthew Forbes as Zazu. Forbes, for me, gets the line right between light comedy without being overly panto which makes Zazu one of my favourite characters!
Young Simba (Amari James) and Young Nala (Serenna Raphaella Hunte) steal the show – and so they should! These two actors are superb, and not just because they’re absolutely adorable, but because they hold their own amongst a stage full of professional performers without missing a note or dropping character for a second. They’re seriously impressive young actors and I can’t wait to see what they go on to do in their careers!
To be completely honest, you don’t need to know my opinion of The Lion King to know you need to go and see it. It’s a bucket list, see-it-every-time-its-in-yorkshire kind of show that nearly always sells out every venue it comes to – and it’s easy to see why. Don’t miss your opportunity to see the show while it’s up in Bradford until 28th May.
Photograph credited to Johan Persson