After years of wanting and waiting, I finally got to see The Lion King (musical)! On Wednesday evening, my husband, daughter, mom, and I trekked out to the city and headed straight to the SHN Orpheum Theatre for the 8:00 p.m. showing.
We arrived a bit early for a small pre-show reception with other local bloggers. Not only did my daughter receive a great little bag of Lion King goodies, we also got the opportunity to chat with two of the musical’s stars – Jelani Remy (adult Simba) and Syndee Winters (adult Nala). I loved how personable they were and how they really engaged the children, gearing their anticipation. After signing autographs and snapping memorable photos we were ready to find our seats and enjoy the performance.
Lights dimmed and the first musical number began. The opening notes delivered by Buyi Zama (Rafiki) were amazingly powerful and the music continued to build in intensity. The stage quickly began to fill up with a variety of creatures as more made their way through the aisles to join them. It was a treat to see a mother and baby elephant brush by.
Performers were extremely talented both vocally and in their acting. “Shadowland”, performed by Nala, was so beautiful! Sets were lively, colorful, and changed out smoothly. It was truly a feast for the eyes and ears.
Seeing the Disney movie is not a must but can add an extra layer of enjoyment when recognizing certain characters and phrases. The storyline sticks closely to that of the original animated film with the exception of one twist (I won’t give it away here though). Still, the humor felt fresh and the transitions were flawless. Make sure to check out the orchestra pit with unique instruments and to look above to see the gorgeous theatre decor.
Costumes were extravagant, detailed, and breathtaking. Yet, it was the actors who brought the characters to life by fully embodying whatever animal they represented. Each had signature nuances in movement but I was most impressed with the cheetah, the hyenas, and Timon and Pumba. The actor performing as Scar did a fabulous job in creating a deep character and made him a seriously cool baddie.
Aside from the costumes and backgrounds, many other means were used in creating this visually appealing stage. Moving scenery, shadow puppets, strobe lighting, starry skies, and more rounded out the performance. My favorite scene had to be during the fateful stampede. That was genius!
“I liked it and want to see it again.” – Munchkin, 11 years old.
The stage area seemed a bit small, especially during scenes where a number of performers were present at once. When I took my daughter out for a quick potty break, I noticed some props and costumes laying in the lobby area as well as in one of the stalls. Also, in the beginning, it was very difficult to know where to direct my focus. There was so much going on that it was quite overwhelming and I had no idea who was singing at one point. It got much better as the show continued on. The only exception is the part, later in the second half, with non-animal dancers performing behind the newly motivated Simba. It seemed somewhat out of place.
There are some intense scenes so, though children as young as 6 years old can attend, I would urge parents to preview the show or go without the young ones if they are sensitive. The two ‘death scenes’ are pretty pronounced. Another parent mentioned that, if you need a booster seat, be sure to grab one before the show to avoid climbing the aisles to get one later. A local also suggested ordering any refreshments prior to the intermission and it will be waiting on a shelf for you (helps skip the mad rush for the bartender).
We had a perfect view in orchestra seating but try not to sit under the balcony area as it felt a tad confining at times. The announcement at the end for donations was kind of odd and having performers standing in the hall with buckets really detracted from the occasion. I’ve never seen people bolt out of a theatre so quickly after a show. It would have been so much nicer if a portion of the merchandise sales went to the cause being supported instead.
The Lion King was a good musical. Those new to the genre and young ones will like the light-heartedness and animal theming. I was a bit disappointed that the show as a whole did not ‘wow’ me as I had hoped nor was I fully drawn into the performance. However, I’m glad I saw it and would recommend it to others who enjoyed the movie but want a more robust experience.