Photos – Belinda Strodder www.dancephotography.net.au
After its huge success as a Disney animated film, The Lion King was reintroduced to audiences in 1997 as a musical, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, along with Hans Zimmer’s musical score and choral arrangements by Lebo M. Today, The Lion King musical is Broadway’s fourth longest-running show in history, and by grossing more than $1 billion, it is also the highest grossing Broadway production of all time.
The Lion King musical is similar to the original animated feature but it is not a verbatim interpretation, although this does not in any way hinder the storyline. Instead, the live performance is embellished by shadow south-east Asian puppetry, African-inspired intricate masks and costumes, nature details donned by actors, and elaborate mobile scenery. It all comes together so seamlessly, and might even look simple at times, but it is a display of beautifully executed visual and performing art.
At first introduction of the puppets, such as Zazu, King Mufasa’s royal advisor (a bird), one might doubt the credibility of the character, since a human actor is obviously manning it and he/she is definitely visible to the audience, but the symbiotic performance is so successful that, at one point whilst the bird addressed its human, it is as though Zazu became a completely separate entity. The same is true of the actors who are “half animal,” their movements are so elegant and realistic that, their costumes seem to become an extension of their body.
The main actors fully embody their characters. Rob Collins, as Simba’s father Mufasa, effectively projects the strong, wise and compassionate ill-fated king of the savanna. Jamie McGregor and Russell Dykstra are a great team, as the hilarious Timon and Pumbaa who adopt Simba during his exiled years in the wilderness. Simba’s sinister uncle Scar, is brilliantly played by Josh Quong Tart, who simply oozes evil with every word and gesture.
The Lion King last ran at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre from 2005 to 2006. A decade later, Julie Taymor’s breathtakingly beautiful production, still proves that it can enchant the young and the young at heart alike. The Lion King is of a timeless quality which can be best described as, the closest one can get to a magical experience.
THE LION KING
Director Julie Taymor
Venue: Regent Theatre | 191 Collins St, Melbourne
Dates: from February 19, 2015
Tickets: $50 – $150
Bookings: 1300 111 011