As a Tony Award-winner for Best Musical, The Lion King isn't one of those rinky-dink Disney on Ice shows we all remember so fondly, nor does it promise to be. Instead, the stage can turn from a minimalist savanna into a lush rainforest, all the way to a barren elephant graveyard at a flicker of light. There were no giant furry or feathery costumes in the play, but fully functional and articulated puppets into which the actors breathed life. The whimsical costumed characters brought to mind surrealist art, and the actors on stilts mimicking giraffes especially reminded me of The Elephants by master artist Salvador Dali.
The Academy Award-winning songs by Elton John/Tim Rice and score by Hans Zimmer are amplified by a full piece live orchestra and incredible singing talent. In addition to the stage production are traditional African arrangements by South African composer Lebo M., immersing the audience into a tantalizing visual and aural safari ride. Aside from the memorable pop numbers, the instrumental pieces that go along with the humming and vocalizing chorus is what makes the show an unforgettable journey.
Who better to bring all the costumes, puppets and scenery to life than a topnotch cast that made the beloved animated characters come alive. The actors moved like animals, every muscle and limb mirrored how an antelope would leap, how a bird would soar and how a lion would roar. To keep the timeless show fresh—the stage adaptation debuted on Broadway in 1997—a modern joke or two was added in, like a reference to Frozen, the wildly popular Disney animated film, that had the audience in stitches.
You never know, there may a Lion King 2 Broadway sequel in the works. One can only dream. But in the meantime, we will always have The Lion King to consistently entrance and dazzle its audiences, young and old alike.
The Lion King continues through Jan. 4 at the Majestic Theatre. Tickets are available at the Majestic box office.