‘Lion King’: Music and special effects galore!

Tue, 04/15/2008 - 3:23pm
By: Kevin Thomas

You know the story – Simba is a young lion cub who was just born to the joy of his parents, Mufasa and Sarabi. He is very energized, and he has his lioness friend, Nala, to tag along for the ride.

Only one person is not happy with Simba’s birth, Mufasa’s evil brother, Scar, because before Simba, he was next in line to rule Pride Rock, the wonderful home the lions inhabit. He is also obsessed with trying to eat Mufasa’s comedic bird advisor, Zazu.

When Mufasa shows Simba the pride lands, he asks about the shadowy place over the pride lands. Mufasa tells Simba to never go there.

Scar tricks Simba into thinking its okay to go to the shadowy place, purposely forgetting to mention about the evil, yet comical but dangerous Hyenas who live there. Simba gets Nala to tag along, with Zazu also coming so Simba and Nala don’t get into any mischief. The kids soon lose Zazu and meet the Hyenas, who attempt to eat them. Luckily, Zazu gets Mufasa to save them from becoming Hyena chew toys. After that, Mufasa makes Simba promise never to go beyond the borders again.

Mufasa and Simba are clueless to the fact Scar is the hyena’s boss, and that he is planning to kill them both. He succeeds in killing Mufasa, but spares Simba’s life, who runs away never to return.

A depressed Simba soon meets Timon and Pumbaa, two animals who live by ‘Hakuna Matata,’ which means no worries. Unfortunately, Scar is ruling Pride Rock and making the animals suffer severely for something he did.

I’m happy to report the play was very close to the movie’s plot. Most of the songs and lines were straight from the movie, and every added line was comedic. It had many great musical numbers, very few added in to the play.

The first scene was very energetic and even included the sunrise from the movie. Rafiki, who is played by a girl in the play, sings the opening song. While she did an excellent job singing, it was weird for me for Rafiki to be played by a girl.

The special effects were the best I’ve ever seen on a stage play. In one scene Mufasa’s head appears in the sky and it seems as real as if you could touch it, then it just vanishes! A river scene didn’t look like a real river to me – it’s made with fabric, but when Timon falls, it looks like he really falls into water.

Mufasa’s and Scar’s death scenes were also very cool. (I was wondering how they were going to do it on stage.) The stampede from the movie is done with a rolling screen and a lot of costumed characters on stage. What’s neat is that they perform those falling scenes in slow motion! There are a lot of things happening on the stage, and I think they attached wires to hooks on the back of the performer’s costumes. When they fell, they lowered them slowly on cue to create the drama.

Timon and Pumbaa look most like their characters from the movie, along with the hyenas and Zazu. There’s a green man on Timon’s back operating the puppet, but after a while you don’t even see him!

If you do get the tickets ($$$), I’d recommend you sit in the loge where you’ll be able to see the great special effects and the costumes. You’ll miss the facial expressions but getting the whole picture will be worth it.

Even though the show is three hours, it is a fantastic piece of art. I give it an A for awesome!

Recommended for all ages, except maybe 1-2 year olds. Playing at the Civic Center in Atlanta through May.

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