Review: The Lion King stage production

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Whoever said nostalgia isn’t what it used to be hasn’t seen the stage production of Disney’s The Lion King.

Ever since I was in the fourth grade and found out I missed the original production of The Lion King, I made a promise that I would see it the next time it came to Toronto. When I found out that the play was back at the Princess of Wales Theatre, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years, The Lion Kingfollows the adventures of a young lion named Simba as he struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and his destined role as king.

Something that captivated me the moment the curtains rose was the attention to detail. The sets were as elaborate as the costumes, and many of the animals in the play were elaborate puppets. The costumes were all vibrant and paid homage to African culture.

The play definitely honoured the original film version.. It was amusing to watch the play and find where the director deliberately poked fun at the differences between the play and film.

When something happened in the play that was clearly not in the original, the character Zazu exclaimed, “This didn’t happen in the cartoon!”

Tidbits such as that reminded the audience that while the play may be different from the movie, it is still the same story that we all fell in love with twenty years ago.

The musical performances would certainly make Elton John proud. All of the classics such as “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” enticed audiences, but there were new songs that were not included in the Disney original.

When she is about to leave the ruins of the Pride Lands, Nala sings a song called “Shadowlands,” which left me in awe, as the actress’ voice matched the powerful message of the song.

I was thoroughly impressed by all of the performances in this production. The dedication and rigor of the actors was displayed through their characters and it gave a strong sense of enlightenment to the audience.

The most notable performances for me come from the portrayals of adult Simba, Scar and Mufasa.

Simba, who was played by Jelani Remy, not only brought the good looks and charm to the role, but his performance demonstrated to audiences that he was more than just a pretty face.

His abilities and talents were present in his vocals and Remy’s acting is convincing and emotional.

There is always a lot of demand when playing the role of the villain, and Patrick R. Brown definitely met the standard as the role of Scar. His portrayal of Scar made it difficult for audiences to hate him.

While his tyrannical tendencies were prevalent throughout the play, he was also sarcastic and utilized the art of deadpanning, making him a rather complex kind of villain.

I found myself always being excited when Scar would come on stage, his strongest performance being Scar’s renowned rendition of “Be Prepared.” I guess its true when they say everyone loves a villain.

Finally, L. Steven Tyler, who played Mufasa, may not have had a whole lot of stage time, but when he graced the stage, it was a real treat. He without a doubt had the strongest vocals out of the whole cast, his solos frequently leaving me with goose bumps and tears in my eyes. Tyler presented Mufasa the way he was in the original: endearing, courageous and wise.

In the pivotal scene when Mufasa dies, the audience was left feeling helpless to stop the inevitable, as everyone collectively wanted to see more of Tyler.

I do not usually make demands, but this is the only exception. Go see The Lion King. It is not only spectacular and visually appealing, but it reminds us that nostalgia is a good thing.

 

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