When it comes to a Broadway theater tour, and in this case, Broadway Across America-Utah, you know a production is going to be good. But with director Julie Taymor's musical The Lion King, well, let's just say it defies expectations and simply put: It's stunning.
Sure the Disney story of a little lion (Simba) and his rise to greatness touched everyone's hearts when it opened as an animated film sixteen years ago. But when The Lion King hit the Broadway stage in 1997, complete with Taymor's unique costumes and puppets-it blew everyone's minds. In 1998, the show won six Tony Awards, including for Best Musical and Best Direction. Not only is the music (mostly by Elton John and Tim Rice as in the movie, along with a few other melodies scored for the stage) fantastic and moving, the costumes and puppets really steal the show. It's like a feast for the eyes and ears. Zebras, spinning birds, dancing gazelles, giraffes, even a large elephant puppet named Bertha (who gets her own specially-built storage room at each production location) all grace the stage. What's more, all of the puppets, costumes, galantry-it's all right here in Utah through September 26.
I attended last Friday night's performance at the Capitol Theatre and as expected, The Lion King did not disappoint. I'd known Taymor's costumes would be exceptional, but had no idea just how much. I also didn't know that the cast members would sing and dance along the theatre aisles, making the production an even more intimate experience. South African Brenda Mhlongo was amazing as Rafiki-the prophetic monkey and nearly steals the show herself with her clear singing and clicking Khoisan dialect. Adam Jacobs (Simba) and Syndee Winters (Nala) also sang and danced beautifully together, and Nick Cordileone's (Timon) and Ben Lipitz's (Pumbaa) comedic shtick often had the audience nearly in tears laughing. (Yes, there were kids there, too, enjoying every moment.)
When the production sadly came to a close, the cast received a resounding standing ovation. In fact, not one person stayed seated.
Run, rush, hurry to the theater before this one leaves town. Hey, you think you're too busy? Hakuna matata. The Lion King is not to be missed.
For more information, visit broadwayinutah.com.