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Review Roundup: THE LION KING Tour Roars Back to the Stage; What Are The Critics Saying?

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The National Tour of The Lion King returned to the stage earlier this month at the Playhouse Square KeyBank State Theatre in Cleveland, OH. 

The Lion King

The National Tour of The Lion King returned to the stage earlier this month at the Playhouse Square KeyBank State Theatre in Cleveland, OH.

The cast includes Spencer Plachy as "Scar," Gerald Ramsey as "Mufasa," Gugwana Dlamini as "Rafiki," Nick Cordileone as "Timon," Jürgen Hooper as "Zazu," Ben Lipitz as "Pumbaa," Darian Sanders as "Simba," Kayla Cyphers as "Nala," Keith Bennett as "Banzai," Martina Sykes as "Shenzi" and Robbie Swift as "Ed." Jaylen Lyndon Hunter alternates the role of "Young Simba", along with Charlie Kahler.

Giraffes strut, birds swoop, gazelles leap - the entire Serengeti comes to life. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly rises from the stage. This is The Lion King. A spectacular visual feast, this adaptation of Disney's much-loved film transports you to a dazzling world that explodes with glorious colors, stunning effects and enchanting music. At its heart is the powerful and moving story of Simba, and his epic journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.

Read the reviews so far below!


Playhouse Square KeyBank State Theatre - Cleveland, OH

Roy Berko, BroadwayWorld: South African, Gugwana Diamini, who has appeared in both stage and film versions of The Lion King, shines as the storytelling Rafiki. Ben Lipitz (Pumbaa, the warthog) and Nick Cordileone (Timon, the meerkat) delight. Their "Hakuna Matata" is a show highlight. Darian Sanders (Adult Simba) and Kayla Cyphers (Adult Nala) have fine singing voices, but develop shallow characterizations. Their "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," was lovely.

Mark Meszoros, News-Herald: "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" - with Young Simba, Young Nala, Zazu and the ensemble - is as infectious as ever, as is the aforementioned celebration of possessing no worries, "Hakuna Matata." Disappointedly, though, when it comes to the performance of the late all-important "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," it is, in fact, hard to feel the love. That said, "The Lion King" continues to pack its usual visual punch, letting you get lost in its vibrant colors - the burnt orange, the sky blue - of its scenic design (Richard Hudson) and be wowed yet again by its impactful lighting design (Donald Holder), never more evident than during the sudden reveal of the enormous skeleton in the elephant graveyard.

Howard Gollop, The Chronicle: As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, but there may be more to the enjoyability of this "The Lion King" than a slogan: The cast and crew of 2021's "The Lion King" seem to try harder - and the audience seems to clap harder as well.

Kerry Clawson, Akron Beacon Journal: I was also struck by both the martial arts-evoking, warrior movements that actress Kayla Cyphers executed as Nala steeled herself to find help for the dying Pridelands in "Shadowland," contrasted later with the beautiful way she curved and nestled her head in her loving movements with Darian Sanders' Simba. Sanders, brand new to the Simba role, is likable with his bright persona and brilliant smile. But his vocals were too quiet and tearful for us to hear him for the first part of Simba's heartbreaking number "Endless Night," with the actor taking too long to open up with his singing. Sanders showed off his powerful pipes later, in the inspiring "He Lives in You," where Simba rediscovers his kingly self.

Majestic Theatre - San Antonio, TX

Bryan Stanton, BroadwayWorld: Young Simba and Young Nala played by Jaylen Lyndon Hunter and Nia Mulder were a dynamic duo that kept the audience on their toes as only two young cubs can. We laughed, we were scared for them, we rejoiced when they were free from danger, and we mourned with Hunter. These young actors connected, I'm sure, with many parents in the audience who could see a tiny bit of their own children on the stage.

John Hanlon, 930 AM The Answer: In terms of the production itself, the look of the feature is magnificent. The computer animation helps bring the settings to life but the characters and dialogue never feel as genuine as it once did. Even though the images are more realistic, everything else feels less so. This is a reboot that can't escape from the shadow of its far superior predecessor. While other recently remakes (including Aladdin, Cinderella and the underrated Pete's Dragon) richly added new layers to their well-known stories, this version of The Lion King sadly never does.

Orpheum Theatre - Memphis, TN

AniKatrina Fageol, BroadwayWorld: The show's opener, The Circle of Life, immediately captivates the audience and pulls them right into the scene as we all gather at Pride Rock to honor the future King of the Pride lands. Adults immediately become children and children gasp with wonder as giant puppets and beautifully costumed actors come from the audience and set the scene at Pride Rock. Gugwana Dlamini's first notes as Rafiki add to the magic, transporting us all back to our childhoods when we first saw that sunrise on our televisions. The audience cheered every time a new character made an entrance and native Memphian Jaylen Lyndon Hunter received an enormous Memphis welcome as he made his entrance as Young Simba.

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