Everyone is talking about Disney’s The Lion King, onstage now at Durham Performing Arts Center, and with good reason. This lively, larger-than-life show is full of humor, warmth, and fun for viewers of all ages.
Most people are familiar with the story, thanks to the Disney film of the same name, but, just in case, it focuses on a young lion named Simba and his long and difficult journey to becoming “king of the jungle” (actually, it’s the savannah). The story, which was heavily inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a true coming-of-age story, which adults can relate to, but when it’s told with a cast of colorful animal characters, it becomes fun for the little ones as well, making this a true family show.
And, really, under the playful direction of Julie Taymor, this show brings out the “kid at heart” in everyone. Right from the start, the production is visually stunning and awe-inducing, with carefully-manned, giant animal puppets parading down the aisles of the theater and taking their spots onstage. And this utilization of the aisles continues throughout the performance, allowing viewers to get a close look at the astonishing costumes and puppets used in the show, which truly are works of art in themselves.
Not only are the costumes and props truly something to behold, but the special effects are visually stunning as well, especially one in which Simba’s father appears to him as a floating, disembodied head. This effect unfolds magically, but it’s not the only magical moment in the production. No, some scenes are magic in their surprising emotional intensity, others in their humor, and others for their dazzling choreography.
And, of course, there’s the music. With the vast majority of the music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, it’s not surprising that the songs would be catchy, fun, and sometimes poignant. Plus, all the favorites from the film version are there, so diehard Disney film fans will be more than happy.
The cast is superb as well. Instead of relying on their elaborate costumes or the amazing effects, each cast member does a stellar job of truly bringing his respective character to life. Tre Jones (Young Simba at some performances) does a wonderful job of making Simba likable and relatable, and Gerald Ramsey lends a special intensity and kindness to his portrayal of Mufasa, Simba’s father. Robbie Swift does an amazing, humor-filled job as Timon, an endeavor which requires him to maneuver a large puppet while still spitting out feisty one-liners. The real star, though, is Patrick R. Brown in his role as Scar, the show’s villain. While no one is supposed to like a villain, Brown is so sarcastic and biting in his delivery that he ends up making Scar one of the show’s most hilarious (but still hated) characters.
With all of these awesome attributes combined, The Lion King is nothing short of magic. It’s the kind of show that kids will tell their own kids about years from now; in short, it’s unforgettable. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s elaborate. Yes, it’s “safe,” but it’s also just plain awesome.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Disney’s THE LION KING at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 and 25, 8 p.m. Feb. 26, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 27, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m. March 1-4, 8 p.m. March 5, 2 and 8 p.m. March 6, 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 7, 7:30 p.m. March 8-10, 8 p.m. March 11, 2 and 8 p.m. March 12, 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 13, 7:30 p.m. March 15-17, 8 p.m. March 18, 2 and 8 p.m. March 19, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 20 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $33-$109. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/820969.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
TOUR CAST: http://www.lionking.com/cast/north-american-tour.
CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.lionking.com/cast/creative-team.
EDUCATIONAL VIDEOS (The Lion King Experience): http://www.lionkingexperience.com/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24th, performance.
The Lion King (1994 animated musical film): http://movies.disney.com/the-lion-king (official web page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110357/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King (Wikipedia).
The Lion King (1997 Minneapolis, 1997 Broadway, and 1999 West End musical): http://www.lionking.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/5421 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://www.facebook.com/TheLionKingUSA/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/thelionking (Twitter page), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/DisneyOnBroadway (YouTube).
Elton John (music): http://www.eltonjohn.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=11938 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005056/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elton_John (Wikipedia).
Tim Rice (lyrics): http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/8890 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005358/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Roger Allers (book): http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/8448 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0021249/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Allers (Wikipedia).
Irene Mecchi (book): http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6444 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0575293/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irene_Mecchi (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.