The Durham Performing Arts Center’s (DPAC) presentation of Disney’s The Lion King is amazingly elaborate from start to finish. The show opens with an ensemble performance of the beloved “Circle of Life,” as colorful animals, of all shapes and sizes, enter the auditorium from every possible entrance, fully and instantly submerging the audience into the world of Pride Rock. After that impressive opening, the show just gets better and better. Richard Hudson’s intricate design of Rafiki’s tree and Julie Taymor’s complex and beautiful costumes are just two of the many, many highlights of the evening.
J. Anthony Crane’s sneering, snarling rendition of Scar adds just the right touch of humor, making the character difficult to hate. Young Simba and Young Nala banter playfully, delighting the audience every step of the way, especially during their spirited performance of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” During this musical number, the cuddly duo ride atop giant, colorful birds while tall giraffes dance in the background and lights sweep over the stage. Young Simba’s sometimes playful, sometimes emotionally charged, but always believable interactions with his father, Mufasa (Dionne Randolph), create the show’s most tender and touching moments. And, of course, everyone falls in love with hilarious Timon (Nick Cordileone) and his not so bright pal, Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz), who manage to make even the basest of fart jokes highbrow enough for the adults.
The Lion King is simply not a show to miss; everything in this production, even the grass, is portrayed as alive, vibrant, and breathing. The performance teems with special effects – there are lights, smoke, colors, and more – and so much heart that viewers won’t be able to take their eyes away from the stage for an instant. The Lion King will run through Sunday, January 30, but even that doesn’t seem like long enough. Tickets may be purchased by visiting http://www.dpacnc.com.