The Lion King | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

theat_lionkingEach of the actors did a flawless job in bringing their colorful characters to life. The level of professionalism and commitment to character was almost overwhelming.

 

 

 

 

Book by Roger Allers & Irene Mecchi
Music and Lyrics by Elton John & Tim Rice
Direction and Costume Design by Julie Taymor

Through July 29, 2007

The Fabulous Fox wraps up its 2006-2007 U.S. Bank Broadway series with the crowd-pleasing, coming-of-age tale, The Lion King. The musical shares the same plot points with the 1994 blockbuster movie. Simba gets tricked into thinking he is responsible for his father's death and exiles himself, making the evil Scar king of Pride Rock. While the story is classic Disney, the thing that makes the musical—and the movie—stand out is the music. While Elton John and Tim Rice's legendary songs are the focal points of the show, additional music contributed by Hans Zimmer, Julie Taymor, Jay Rifkin, Mark Mancina, and South African composer, Lebo M, fill the show with an outstanding spirit and infectious energy.

Each of the actors did a flawless job in bringing their colorful characters to life. The level of professionalism and commitment to character was almost overwhelming. Geno Segers was a commanding Mufasa, Kevin Gray was positively evil in the role of Scar, and Ta'Rea Campbell turned in a very noble performance as the older Nala. While each of these actors did a fine job, several other actors raised the bar by giving their roles an extra dose of sparkle and shine. To say that Gugwana Dlamini did an outstanding job as Rafiki would be an understatement. Dlamini completely commanded the stage in each scene she appeared. Not far behind Dlamini, both John Gardiner and Bob Amaral stood out for their contributions as Timon and Pumbaa, respectively. It took a few scenes for me to warm up to the actors, but both did an excellent job in delivering some of the funniest lines of the show. Rounding out the cast with impressive performances were Michael Dean Morgan as Zazu and Clifton Oliver as the older Simba. The only performance of the evening that left me wanting more was Nicholas L. Ashe as young Simba. Ashe was frequently out of tune and overly mechanical in his dance movements. I am not sure if he was just having an off night, but in a talented cast of this magnitude, his lackluster performance was easy to spot.

As noted earlier, the music of the show takes center stage. Songs such as "Hakuna Matata" and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" are surely crowd favorites, but there were three numbers in particular that stood out above the rest. The opening number, "Circle of Life" thrusts the audience into the show as animals of all shapes and sizes flood the aisles. I had heard several times that I shouldn't miss the opening number and now I know why: it was truly a spectacle. Secondly, the choreography during "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is possibly the most breathtaking choreography I have ever seen hit the stage. Full of graceful movements and stunning highwire acrobatic movements, this number was one of the high points of the evening. The most impressive musical number of the night came in the second act and was a reprise of an earlier number. Dlamini's chilling vocals on "They Live in You (Reprise)" were so sensational, I actually got goosebumps when she nailed the emotional points of the song.

Rounding out the trifecta of reasons why this show is a success is the puppet creations by Julie Taymor. Not only did Taymor serve as director of the show, she created the magnificent animal costumes the actors adorn on stage. After the first few scenes I was impressed at how easy it was for the audience to focus on the puppets rather than the actors. Timon and Pumbaa's costumes were particularly impressive, as was Scar's subtle headpiece.

From start to finish, The Lion King is a smash. Wonderful acting, a stellar soundtrack, and top-shelf visual effects all combine to end the The Fabulous Fox's 2006-2007 U.S. Bank Broadway Series on a very high note. It is no wonder why this show may be claiming the lion's share of theatergoers' ticket dollars—this is the must see show of the summer. | Jim Campbell

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