By Chris Heide
The Lion King is a triumphant collective of dazzling choreography, innovative set design, and impressive vocal prowess. Twenty years after it’s original Broadway debut, The Lion King continues to demonstrate exactly why it is one of the most popular musicals in the world. It’s a swirling combination of memorable moments from the hit film, as well as showstopping moments that channel classic Broadway. It is easy to see why this creative musical, which is infused with a great deal of puppetry, won six Tony Awards in 1998. The show is now on a national tour, and debuted in Seattle last night.
The plotting of the show follows the exact plotting of the hit Disney film. In fact, a great deal of dialogue from the film shows are in this show. All of the most memorable songs and scenes can be found in the stage production of The Lion King. However, despite these fan favorite moments, the truly mesmerizing moments come from elements that were specially created for the stage production.
In terms of pacing, the show is a bit slow to get going. Following the bombastic opening number, The Circle of Life, the show trudges on for five more scenes before another musical number appears. In fact, a majority of the first act relies heavily on plot development, pyrotechnics and stimulating special effects. For me, the show finally began to resemble a true Broadway production the moment that adult Simba (Jared Dixon) appeared during the climax of the first act.
The second act is much more tightly focused. More musical numbers, more choreography and rapid plot development. Dixon is captivating as adult Simba. His vocal chops are only rivaled by those of Nia Holloway, who plays Nala. In fact, it is the two solos sung by Dixon (Endless Night) and Holloway (Shadowland) that have the most emotional resonance and goosebump invoking notes.
Other standouts in the cast are Greg Jackson (Zazu) and Mpume Sikakane (Rafiki). Both actors practically stole the show, the show with all of the scene chewing might they could muster. Some of the most hilarious moments of the evening were produced by these two brilliant comedians.
Overall, The Lion King is a very good, extremely accessible, and thoroughly enjoyable hit that is sure to continue for years to come.