Soon to open its UK tour, smash-hit musical The Lion King continues to dominate the West End
Not many shows can be said to expand the perception of what theatre can do, but Disney’s The Lion King is surely one of them. Nearly 13 years after its acclaimed opening at London’s Lyceum Theatre, it is still dazzling young and old alike, and now the award-winning production will embark on its first ever UK tour – generating a wave of excitement across the country.
What makes it so compelling? There are many reasons, not the least of them being the unforgettable opening spectacle which introduces us to the African savannah, rich in plant and animal life, where the story of the royal lion cub Simba takes place.
And while actors using puppets to portray the animals sounds seemingly unexciting, it is the genius of American director Julie Taymor and her team that – through imaginative use of these time-honoured theatrical devices – seems to unlock the very DNA of this familiar yet still alien-like world.
So when the sun rises at the back of the stage and the giraffes enter from the left in silhouette, stalking elegantly across the backcloth, the audience is unquestionably transported. As the sequence unrolls, the action spreads throughout the auditorium – until a sense of Africa and its wonders has been absorbed, and the audience (imbued with the spirit of the place, the beauty, the dignity and the power of life) is ready to be swept away by the heady adventures which see the at-first immature Simba soon grow into his responsibilities.
Then, of course, there’s the music. And that doesn’t just mean the five songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice for the film version of The Lion King (including the Oscar-winning ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’); three more were in fact composed for the stage show which, throbbing with African rhythms and chants, has 15 numbers altogether and a much-expanded score by South African composer Lebo M. As Taymor explains: ‘Nothing can replace the poetry and mystery of the sound of the language.’
So strong is the show itself – visually, musically and choreographically – that it doesn’t require stars to carry it. What is does rely on, however, is nearly 50 talented performers to act, dance and sing their way to the climax of the story: the famous confrontation between Simba and his wicked uncle, Scar, at Pride Rock.
Rapturously received by capacity audiences every night, The Lion King – seen by over 65 million people and with productions in every corner of the globe – is a worldwide phenomenon that remains one of the most sought-after tickets in the West End.
The Lion King on Safari
Bristol Hippodrome from Friday 31 August 2012
Palace Theatre, Manchester from Monday 3 December 2012
The Lion King continues to appear at the Lyceum Theatre, London, throughout 2012
For more information visit www.thelionking.co.uk