Book: Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi
Music: Tim Rice, Elton John
Director: Julie Taymor
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
Disney’s The Lion Kingbounded into Southampton’s Mayflower theatre last night with an absolute roar! As the sun rises and the music swells the sounds and feel of the Savannah envelops the awaiting Mayflower audience. The opening sequence is accompanied by a sharp intake of breath by adults and children alike and the gasps of wonder and disbelief from children can be heard as they point things out to their parents. As the auditorium and stage are filled with a cornucopia of African animals of all description: sauntering giraffes, plodding rhinoceroses, swaying elephants (yes that’s right elephants) and swooping birds there is something for all members of the audience to gaze at in amazement. Then probably the most easily recognised song “The Circle of Life” composed by Elton John and Tim Rice, is delivered with perfect harmony across the auditorium, enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up.
This is a show that has not lost anything in being on tour. Julie Taymor the director has created a spectacle that is epic in its delivery and accompanied by her innovative and stunning costume design; a personal favourite are the giraffes and the lionesses, there is so much happening that you are in fear of a beautiful sensory overload. A special mention must go to scenic designer Richard Hudson whose backdrops and set alongside Donald Holder’s lighting design evoke the heat and danger of the Savannah. Garth Fagin’s choreography blends animal movements with contemporary dance moves and the actors demonstrate such skill and dexterity in their portrayal of the animals it is hard to imagine they are puppets.
Young Simba played by Daniel Daszek-Green is a real joy and there is a clear connection between him and Cleveland Cathnott who plays his father Mufasa. This connection also translates between the older Simba and Nala played by Nicholas Nkunna and Ava Brennan respectively. Brennan is a feisty Nala and she demonstrates a superb voice when singing “Shadowlands”.
Much humour abounds with the characters Rafiki (Gugwana Dlamini) who links much of the show together, ( Zazu (Mailyr Sion) the cheeky dodo, Timon (John Hasler) and Pumbaa (played by standby Mark Peachey) who are clear favourites with the audience. “Hakuna Matata” sung by Timon, Pumbaa and the young Simba and Nala is a popular number with adults and children alike and you can see the words being mouthed by adults and sung heartily by the children. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, another well-known musical number illustrates the talent that abounds in this show, as the heartfelt words are sung out with great gusto by the cast.
Stephen Carlile plays a suitably evil Scar; Simba’s uncle and slinks around the stage in a menacing manner revelling in his delicious devilment. He most certainly got the most applause when he was killed and finished off by a trio of slightly manic hyenas; Banzai, Shenzi and Ed (Daniel Norford, Me’sha Bryan, Philip Oakland) and equally the most ‘boos’ at curtain call.
With over 40 actors in this cast The Lion King is veritably feast for the senses. Appealing to both adults and children this really is the jewel in the Mayflower’s crown at the moment. If you can get a ticket to see this then please do so as this is most definitely one not to miss and if you do you will most likely regret it.
Tour Photo ¦ Runs at the Southampton Mayflower until 6th Sep 2014 then continues tour