Book: Roger Allers &Irene Mecchi
Music and Lyrics: Elton John &Tim Rice
Director: Julie Taymor
Reviewer: Shane Morgan
Even before you enter the theatre you know you are up for something special. The Hippodrome is celebrating its Centenary. The Lion King is commencing its first major tour with this production. With the Olympics over and the Paralympics in full swing, it would be easy to find this theatrical giant a little over whelming. While there may be times you need a break from its grandeur, there is nothing more epic on offer than The Lion King.
For the uninitiated, The Lion King is a simple story of family and loyalty. While owing more than a nod and a roar to Shakespeare, The Lion King appeals to most on a very human level. We are thrust straight away into the Circle of Life with a parade of animals that highlight the best of the production – the puppetry, the music and the design – and the story has only just started to be told.
There is nothing small or underplayed here. All of the characters are larger than life offering their own slant on the antics and high jinx of the jungle. From the birth of Simba, through to the death of Mufasa, the first half is an explosion of sound, light and Olympian athleticism from the performers. This isn’t just a show about puppetry and visual theatricality; it is a testament to the cast that the characters and the world come alive. When the interval finally comes, you feel like you have already run a marathon. The second half is full of discovery and hopes when Simba returns, reunites with Nala and all head towards the inevitable battle that looms.
This is an attack of the senses in every way so when the creative team decide to pull back using techniques such as shadow puppetry it feels like a moment to breathe and take stock.
The aim of The Lion King is to please and it does that in bucket loads. The packed theatre rose to its feet in unison at the end and here is no better sign of success than that. If at times it does feel like the Disney machine is throwing its immense weight behind it, you can forgive that. The true stars of the show are the performers who make this well-oiled machine move effortlessly through a wonderfully engaging and enriching evening.
One for all the family and not to be missed.