BWW Review: Broadway Magic Comes to Baltimore - THE LION KING at The Hippodrome
Only in the magical land of Broadway can you take a 1994 animated Disney movie thinly based on Shakespeare's HAMLET and possibly based on a 1960s Japanese anime series and transform it into a 6-Tony-Award-winning and highest grossing Broadway production in history. Yes, it's "The Lion King," which has reached more than 19 million theater goers in its North American tour, playing more than 70 cities across the continent, including Baltimore-"The Lion King" performs on Baltimore's Hippodrome stage now through Sunday, Dec. 10th.
If you've seen the movie, you know the story-royal Uncle kills King Brother, blames King's son, King's son disappears, makes friends, reunites with childhood sweetheart, returns, takes rightful place on the throne, there's lots of singing, pop culture references, fart jokes for the kids, "Hakuna Matata" (no worries) everyone, and be sure to put in your drink order prior to intermission.
The magic lies in the incredible costumes, which are less costumes and more state-of-the-art marionettes, as costume/mask/puppet designer Julie Taymor and her colleagues find a way to create elephants, giraffes, gazelles, flying birds, cheetahs, hyenas, that are about as close to the real thing as you can get. Just watching the actors become one with their characters, moving like the animals they are playing (right down to the cheetah stretching and washing its paw) is worth the price of admission.
If you've seen the movie, you know the characters and the songs. Mark Campbell plays the murderous Scar with just the right Jeremy-Ironish tone and lilt of voice as villains always seem that much more villainous when they have a slight British accent. Greg Jackson's Zazu is the required mix of pomposity-and-Mr.-Belvedere; Nick Cordileone's Timon, the meerkat who cracks wise like one of the Bowery Boys while Ernie Sabella's Pumbaa, cracks wind to the delight of anyone in the audience still in single digits.
Kudos also to Michael Carey, technical director and his team for creating a believable wildebeest stampede and the spectacular way the spirit of the murdered Mufasa appears in the "night sky" which elicited a clearly audible "ahhhhhhhhhh!" from the audience.
The rest of this large and dynamic ensemble cast includes Gerald Ramsey as "Mufasa," Buyi Zama as "Rafiki," Gerald Caesar as "Simba," Nia Holloway as "Nala," Keith Bennett as "Banzai," Martina Sykes as "Shenzi" and Robbie Swift as "Ed." The role of "Young Simba" is alternated between Joziyah Jean-Felix and Ramon Reed and the role of "Young Nala" is alternated between Danielle W. Jalade and Gloria Manning.
Tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com or BaltimoreHippodrome.com and by calling 866-870-2717 or visiting the Hippodrome Box Office located at 12 N Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201 at the corner of Eutaw and Baltimore St, as well as all Ticketmaster locations.