BWW Review: DISNEY'S THE LION KING Roars With Excitement and Creative Wonder at BJCC CONCERT HALL
Before I begin, I'd like you to sit down, breathe deeply and relax. Try to think back to that first time your eyes were widened to the sights, sounds and spectacle of Disney's classic animated film "The Lion King." A timeless film rich with endearing characters, hilarious laughs, white-knuckle tension, and iconic music from the legendary Elton John and Tim Rice. I bet simply reading or hearing the name "The Lion King" will trigger your mind to replay scenes and songs. "The Circle of Life", "Hakuna Matatta", "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", "I Just Cant Wait to be King" or maybe the whole soundtrack.
The musical stage adaptation of Disney's "The Lion King" is on record being the most successful theatrical production of all time. This amazing Tony and Grammy Award wining musical has grossed nearly seven billion dollars worldwide. Visionary director Julie Taymor adapted the story with creative new elements that accentuates the original film screenplay. One of the more notable adjustments is the female characters were given strength, purpose and validity. Taymor's vision was the actors to be adorned with flowing costumes, dramatic headpieces and detailed and expressive puppets. Each costume and vibrant scene change can stand-alone as an engaging piece of art all to itself.
Giving a review of the wonder of this production is comparable to asking, "why is the sunset so beautiful?" It just is a wonder of life to behold. The national tour of "The Lion King" shares such a definition. There is no comparison to the regal and creative expression director Julie Taymor wove into making this beautiful example of modern theatre. The presentation is built on a collective of striking theatrical elements indicative of theatre styles found on a global scale. You will be entertained by examples of Japanese kabuki and bunraku, Greek tragedies, shadow and hand puppetry. The artistic expression is candy for your eyes that you cannot get enough of.
For those who are unfamiliar with Disney's "The Lion King", first I suggest you find other residence besides that rock you have been living under. "The Lion King" is a coming of age story of a young lion prince named Simba, the only heir to the King of Pride Rock, Mufassa. The tale is packed with memorable comedic and tragic moments, music and characters. Being considerate to the select few from under that rock, I wont give the story away. You Google this show, you will find thousands of spoiler rich reviews that are basically literary repetition of the entire play. I feel if you are unfamiliar with "The Lion King", it would be best to view this production without any preview to the journey that you will take, and what a journey this show is indeed.
The overly talented cast is working overtime within this visual utopia, almost as if they are animated characters themselves. The actors are inundated with spectacular stage presence, vocal power and well-constructed character work. It was impressive to witness the actors bring well constructed layers into their roles, no matter its size or role in the story
Young Simba (alternating between Joziyah Jean-Felix and Ramon Reed) and Young Nala (alternating between Danielle W. Jalade and Gloria Manning) are the best of friends. They light up the stage with giving playful energy and heart tugging emotion into the roles. The regal King Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) gives a rich performance with strength in the role and his voice. The villainous Scar (Mark Campbell) is precise in carving every element of a character you will love to hate.
The older Simba (Gerald Caesar) and Nala (Nia Holloway) both deliver much heart, strong voice and physical commitment into their performance. The wise soothsayer baboon Rafiki (Mukelisiwe Goba) is stacked with powerful voice, rising emotion and comedic delivery. Comedy is quite rich within the performances of the King's right hand bird Zazu (Greg Jackson), the wisecracking meercat Timon (Nick Cordileone), and the "Hakuna" to his "Matatta" is the aromatic warthog Pumbaa (Ben Liptiz). The sneaky trio of hyenas, Shenzi (Martina Sykes), Banzai (Keith Bennett) and Ed (Robbie Swift) give great comedy chops and stage presence.
If you ever question why theater of this caliber holds a higher price. Visit this performance and imagine performing such high-energy dance, singing, acting and acrobatics, especially on a two show day. Just saying, it's worth every penny spent. "The Lion King" is an event worth investing in. It is not just a run of the mill musical, it is an experience of inspiration and heart pounding beauty. "The Lion King" is a trip into the arts that gives the same awe as a sunrise on the Grand Canyon.
Disney's The Lion King
March 14 - April 1, 2018
BJCC Concert Hall
2100 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N
Birmingham, AL 35203
There is currently road construction happening on the interstates around the BJCC. Visit 5920bridge.com for the most up to date information. Please plan to arrive early. At least 40 minutes to allow extra time for parking prior to the show just in case. Better to arrive a bit early than after the curtain goes up for any performance, especially for The Lion King.
Photo Credit: Nick Cordileone as "Timon" and Ben Lipitz as "Pumbaa" in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus. / Nia Holloway as "Nala," Buyi Zama as "Rafiki" and "The Lionesses" in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo Credit: Deen Van Meer. / Buyi Zama as "Rafiki" in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.