In case you missed it, Disney’s The Lion King wraps up its summer run at the Jubilee this weekend. It’s the story of young Simba, who is in line to be king until his evil uncle Scar teams up with a bunch of laughing hyenas, kills Simba’s father and chases Simba out of the kingdom, believing his father’s death was his fault. You can guess how it all turns out (it is Disney, after all). Nevertheless it’s a pretty engaging good versus evil (“I shouldn’t believe that inner dialogue that says I’m not good enough”) story, and certainly one that seems to appeal to children, based on the demographics of the audience the night I was there (including a family of 6 in front of me that must have shelled out close to $600 for their evening’s entertainment – yikes!)
The Lion King is not my favourite Disney show (give me Mary Poppins or Beauty and the Beast any day), but apparently I’m alone there. According to Broadway Across Canada, The Lion King premiered on Broadway on November 13, 1997, and won six 1998 Tony Awards®. Since then, 22 global productions have been seen by more than 75 million people and, cumulatively, run a staggering 112 years. Having played 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history. I guess that’s why they’re not boasting when they say it’s the World’s Number 1 Musical.
I saw Broadway Across Canada’s production when it opened in August. I thought the opening procession of animals was amazing and I was impressed with Gerald Ramsey as Simba’s father, Mufasa and Tshidi Manye as Rafiki (see photo above). I also have to give a special nod to Julie Taymor (Director, Costume Design,Mask-Puppet Co-design) and Michael Curry (Mask/Puppet Co-design), for really making you feel like you were watching animals on stage. After the novelty of all of this wore off and Mufasa died, the story kind of lagged for me. Maybe I just couldn’t relate to the young Simba or his girlfriend/wife Nala, or maybe I just don’t have much patience for hereditary monarchy or Warthog farts. Whatever the reason, while I enjoyed The Lion King well enough, I don’t think this show will ever make my all-time hit parade, even with music by the likes of Elton John and Tim Rice. This includes the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and the opening number, “The Circle of Life” and other songs from the animated film, plus 3 new songs and additional musical material added for stage which gives it an additional African flair.
I think that if you loved the movie, or are a fan of the musicals Warhorse or Cats, you might like this show. Otherwise, save your pennies and watch the movie (again).
The Lion King closes on Sunday September 6. For information and tickets go to www.broadwayacrosscanada.ca
Next up for Broadway Across Canada:
Riverdance 20th Anniversary Tour (a short run over the Thanksgiving long weekend). Tickets available now.
Once, the Musical – Nov 3 to 8. Tickets for ONCE go on sale Monday, September 14 through ticketmaster.ca, or by calling 1-855-985-5000. Tickets start at $35.00 (plus applicable service charges). Reservations for groups of ten (10) or more are now being accepted by calling 1-800-889-8457. Performances run Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8pm, Sunday evening at 7:30pm with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.