As far as any work across all entertainment goes, Disney’s stage musical The Lion King has
become the highest-ever grossing production of all time. Raking in a staggering worldwide total of £3.8bn – and counting – at the box office, the screen-to-theatre reinvention of the “Just Can’t Wait To Be King” lion cub tale has surely grown its theatrical mane to be crowned ‘king of plays’.
The Lion King is not merely a light entertainment that aims to pacify our dwindling tolerance with the world’s woes. It is a powerful allegorical story which hinges on themes of fatalism, leadership and purpose. The tale depicts the adventures of a lion cub (Simba) born into animal royalty, then driven into exile having been convinced by his wicked uncle (Scar) that he’s responsible for his father (Mufasa)’s demise. His later befriending of “Hakuna Matata” meerkat (Timon) and warthog (Pumbaa) catalytically helps him return home, to reclaim the throne from Scar.
Already in its third week at Manchester’s Palace theatre, the stage production – which first opened in Broadway in 1997 – is receiving roaring applause and standing ovations in its sold-out shows. Directed by Julie Taymor and based on the animated Disney movie, the heart-warming twenty-year old musical is brought to life with such unimaginable sets, dazzling choreography and enchanting compositions.
Taymor’s genius transports the entire auditorium with ease, from Oxford Road Manchester to the African Savannah, as her talent in costume design and puppetry offers a striking visual feast.
Her use of tantalizing puppetry to cover scenes like the wildebeest stampede and animals hunting in the grasslands, meant that parts that you would think are improbable on stage, are actually possible and – due to her creativity – work.
The theatre production, watched by TNT last Thursday, also had an on-stage sign language interpreter, Donna Ruane, whose verve and precise interpreting transferred superbly to the deaf audience. “She was very visual, captivating and included everything…even the Zulu words in ‘Circle of Life’. A deaf member of the audience sat behind me said that because of her [Ruane], he had the same experience as any other hearing person”, British Sign Language student Tayyibah Muhammad told TNT.
As unlikely as it may sound, Ruane’s seamless interpretation could easily have you periodically transfixed on her rather than the cast itself. However the entire elements of the play made it nigh-on impossible to jot down a single flaw, as “they [the production team] did well. It was accurate in comparison to the screen version; the colour, songs, costumes”, Spanish trio Pilar, Almudena and Natalia agreed.
What’s also integral to the play’s continued success is the manner in which it subtly includes modern humour (Que: ‘Let it go’ and ‘IKEA’); which isn’t in the original screen version, yet “remains emotive and brings it [the story] up-to-date in good, realistic fashion”, Michelle Price who travelled from the Cumbria’s Kendal said.
Although the record-breaking show only began showing on 17 January 2015, and will run until 22 February 2015, fans like Sarah Rumney from Lake District, bought their tickets last year citing “as soon as I knew it was coming to Manchester, I got the tickets immediately. I’ve seen it before but watching it again brings a newer experience. It’s just very well done”.
With a cast of over 40 actors, singers and dancers, The Lion King is a stunning musical that brings enough variety to appease even the non-musical person. It is a thoroughly enjoyable two and half hours (including one interval) of theatre that swiftly goes by and is sure to continue leaving other theatre productions in its dust.
TNT News Yasin Chinembiri