Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Lion King: A Magical Spectacle

Sat in the Grand Circle of the Lyceum Theater in London while waiting for the seats to be filled up, mostly by students on a day trip or tourists on a short visit to the British capital, I started to feel slightly apprehensive on whether the theatrical version of the Lion King we were about to see would live up to its critical acclaim. 

As a child, my siblings and I were obsessed with the 1994 Disney movie we kept replaying the VHS tape until the rented video nearly got broken. The coming of age movie theme and the memorable songs has made it until now my favourite cartoon film of all time. When I found out about the West End version, I've put it forward on our annual list of Things To Do and John booked the ticket for a day out in February. 

My husband and I are avid theatre-goers, preferring this medium to film, which made me feel more queasy about dragging him all the way to London with a late night train to catch that same day and a baby (who was left with his grandmother) to tuck in bed before midnight. But when the show opened with a bright orange sun rising over the African jungle followed by a procession of animals through the audience including a sizeable elephant, the child in me was reawakened and all cynicism replaced with awe. 

The show brought the African Savannah in all its colourful glory with a cacophonous cavalcade that took our breath away. The impressive animal puppets absorbed the human body into a whole Serengeti of stylised animal shapes, capturing the essence of the animals in the wild while nodding subtly to the human faces of Africa. It was a thunderous spectacle of live theatre with so much thought and detail that went into the choreography it was of little wonder that more than 10 years after its debut in London, even a mid-week matinee show can still command a full house. 

But it wasn't just the visual pageantry accompanied by African drumbeats that made the musical so popular, it also caters to different audiences who would leave the theatre with something to take. My special memories are the shared scenes between father and son, when Mufasa took Simba to the top of Pride Rock to marvel at the extent of the kingdom he would someday inherit and the lessons he attempted to impress on the curious cub. One particular line struck me, when the young lion repulsively pointed at the ugly vultures feeding on dead animals and his father told him that they are only doing what they are meant to do, that everything exists in a delicate balance called the Circle of Life which we would all do well to respect. That awareness is something our own child will also be taught. 

The Lion King is a definite must see, the West End version was nostalgic, breath-taking and soul-stirring, well worth the £45 (cheapest) per ticket  we had to pay. 

The Lion King Musical
The Circle of Life: Image from weblink.
The Lion King Musical
The Sun Rising: Image from weblink.

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