MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Lion King – The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Reviewer: Laura Stimpson

Music: Elton John

Lyrics: Tim Rice

Director: Julie Taymor

Choreographer: Garth Fagan

Since first opening on Broadway in 1997 The Lion King has been a firm favourite with both audiences and critics alike. It has been seen by over 100 million people worldwide, received six Tony Awards and is Broadway’s highest grossing production of all time. The cast ensure, through their energy, skill and passion that it still feels as fresh as ever.

Based on the 1994 popular animated film, the story follows Simba (Stephenson Ardern-Sodje), a lion cub who learns he is destined to take the place of his father Mufasa (Jean-Luc Guizonne) as King of the Pride Lands. As he accepts his life and the challenges facing him along the way he meets several characters who have a profound impact on his life, and help him grow into the king he is destined to become.

The opening scene immediately grips the audience, the most wonderful vocal chant leading into a visual spectacle with actors, dancers and animals becoming one. The large ensemble numbers are stunning throughout the show, they combine music, dance and drama in the most powerful way, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end throughout. However, The Lion King is so much more than a set of impressive cast numbers. The range of emotions portrayed throughout, in both well-known numbers such as I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, Be Prepared and Hakuna Matata, and lesser known pieces such as Grasslands Chant and the haunting He Lives in You, take you on the most wonderful journey through the emotions.

This is a true ensemble cast and scenes are at their most powerful and emotive when larger groups are performing on stage and singing beautiful harmonies and chants together. Though a particular mention should be given to Thandazile Soni who plays an energetic Rafiki with stunning vocals and Matthew Forbes who perfectly encapsulates the character of the hilarious Zazu through a combination of fine acting and puppetry.

The stage design by Richard Hudson constantly evolves, bringing the Serengeti to life, with the stampede scene being particularly impressive. The costumes show the most wonderful workmanship, with the outfits moulding into the actors, meaning you can’t tell where one starts and the other finishes. The puppets are exceptional, and once again, expertly used throughout. It’s not surprising Julie Taymor was the first woman to be awarded a Tony Award for best direction of a musical, being responsible for overall direction, costume design and puppet co-design.

The Lion King is a show that must be seen at least once in your life time, it is truly spectacular.

Runs until 28th May 2022

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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