Anyone see The Lion King when it was still in its prime?

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nicnyc
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I saw Lion King shortly after it opened (my mother was desperate to see it and bought scalper seats). The opening "Circle of Life" number was fantastic due to all the amazing puppets, etc but the rest of it left me cold. Like many of the other posters, I really wanted Ragtime to win best musical (and best director, for that matter). I loved Ragtime so much I saw the original production 3 times (when I was just out of grad school and going to theater at all was a huge monetary sacrifice). I've never had any desire to see Lion King again...
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I saw The Lion King national tour back in 2005. They were still running 2 US companies, so I would still consider it to be in it's prime during that time. I'm from Oregon, so when it was announced The Lion King would be playing a 7 week engagement in Portland, the entire state went haywire. The entire run sold out in hours 7 months in advance. I don't know what it was about the show, but it was absolutely electrifying. The touring cast was solid. The orchestra was crisp. And the entire set, including the raked automated deck, was innovative. It was indeed a special time inside that theatre, and I had never experienced anything like it before. However, in recent years, it's gone from an innovative time of Theatre to a commercial palooza.
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I saw The Lion King national tour back in 2005. They were still running 2 US companies, so I would still consider it to be in it's prime during that time. I'm from Oregon, so when it was announced The Lion King would be playing a 7 week engagement in Portland, the entire state went haywire. The entire run sold out in hours 7 months in advance. I don't know what it was about the show, but it was absolutely electrifying. The touring cast was solid. The orchestra was crisp. And the entire set, including the raked automated deck, was innovative. It was indeed a special time inside that theatre, and I had never experienced anything like it before. However, in recent years, it's gone from an innovative time of Theatre to a commercial palooza.
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I saw it in February 1999 (my first Broadway show ever) at the New Amsterdam and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. With this exception of Tsidii Le Loka as Rafiki, it was all the original cast which was a huge boon for me. It made me want to continue seeing shows, and I'll always be grateful for that.
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I saw the show in its pre-Broadway run in Minneapolis and thought it was amazing. I also saw it on Broadway a couple years later and then when it toured a few years after that. I agree that The Circle of Life is the best part of the show, but I still enjoyed the entire show. My husband and I went to the tour a few years ago, and it was his first time seeing it. He enjoyed it, but wasn't overly impressed. I think, as with many shows, once it tours for a long time the quality tends to go down some. It's not the best book, but visually it's stunning.
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I saw the original cast on Broadway and with the exception of the hyena numbers, I thought it was gorgeous, inventive and thrilling. I also saw the original cast of Ragtime and as much as I love the score, I really didn't care for the Broadway production. The staging and choreography left me confused and cold. It was so schizophrenic, constantly shifting from spectacle to minimalist with a lot of unnecessary dead space on that vast empty stage. I was very happy to hear the score sung live, but it was bittersweet as the show stumbled along from start to finish. It was just bizarre. Years later, I saw a small regional production of Ragtime in Chicago that did far more justice to the piece, but still could not overcome some of the more fleeting and problematic book moments (such as the riot before Gliding).

I thought the Tonys played out exactly right that year and Ragtime's win for Best Book being something of a consolation given that I thought the book was as inconsistent as the staging (though I admit I had just read the novel prior to seeing the show, so I had a fresh take on the original story and narrative style).

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Updated On: 8/11/14 at 09:48 AM
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I concur. The original Lion King was wonderful, imo. The cast was perfect.

I was not a big fan of the film, but the magic that Taymor created was infectious. Yes, the opening is amazing, but it did not fall off from there at all. The hunt, the chase, the scorching of the land and the face of Mufasa were all stunning.

My favorite thing about the show, though, was the new music and lyrics. It transformed the trite score from the film to one that was glorious. Headley singing Shadowland...was stunning as well.

I enjoyed "Ragtime", but it did have many problems with the storytelling. It's score was what was so impressive.

As for the Tonys, it was simply that one show was a disappointment, even if not terrible, while the other was a lovely surprise.
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I wasn't long out of college when I saw Lion King, so my response to it was very much shaded by some of the work I did in school...specifically mask work. I had taken a class in the South Korean mask drama known as Ha Hoe (God...this is sounding douchier than I intended). It was very primitive and, I thought, terribly silly, until the day we made our presentation to the department. It ended up being so well received and people were really moved by the work. I kind of got over my snobbishness when I saw the power of that kind of drama. A lot of what I ended up responding to in that class is what I responded to in The Lion King. It was a deeply personal and involving experience informed by some of the work I had done just a few years earlier. Had I not taken that class, I may have had a very different response to the show.

As for RAGTIME, I think it has the best first act of any show written in the last 25 years. And then the second act happens. It cannot settle on a tone, it cannot reconcile the fact that the hero becomes and anti-hero and that Wheels of a Dream ending leaves a terrible, terrible taste in my mouth. I felt it during the original production as well as the revival.
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best12bars, what an interesting story. The Lion King was my first musical when I was 6 and I loved it. Maybe, Disney needs to do some interesting casting to bring some life back into the show.
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I guess I saw it before "its prime," whenever that was. I saw it a couple of times when it was trying out in Minneapolis. "Circle of Life" was already stunning -- in fact, it was stunning at the press preview, when it was all they showed -- and, although Taymor did eliminate some of the worst stuff (I forget: Is the dance number with the squares of Astroturf on the dancers' heads still in it?), it was then pretty much the mishmash it is now.
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Anyone see The Lion King when it was still in its prime?

You mean The Grasslands Chant? Love that number!

"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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Anyone see The Lion King when it was still in its prime?

I love when the marimba music starts and they rise out of the stage floor.

"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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I saw it about 6 months after it opened. Having had worked with Julie on a nuber of projects before this, I saw it as "Julie with money". I have always admired the stage pictures she creates. She is not a story teller though and I have always felt her shows tend to be rather cold and offputting. There is no heart in anything I have seen of hers. Some pretty nice stgae pictures, just no heart or emmotion. Lion King is the very same.
Once I saw the opening number, I turned to my friend next to me and said, "$100, says there will be copulating Africans on wires!"> when they appeared in Can You Feel The Love Tonight, I was in the aisle heading tothe lobby with an intese giggle fit.
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Hilarious that the "Anyone see The Lion King when it was still in its prime?" thread immediately became the "Anyone want to kvetch and complain about what a crappy show The Lion King is?" thread. Shoulda seen that coming, I suppose. For me, it was a transformative experience. The giraffe walked onstage, I burst into tears and I was enraptured for the next two and a half hours. Some people just WANT not to like things, especially when they're popular. Oh, well, let them see "If/Then" for the hundredth time...
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I saw it late in previews, perhaps a week before opening, back in 1997 (I haven't revisited it since). I remember loving the refurbished theatre and the opening number (we had no idea what to expect that early, of course), and then being mostly disappointed thereafter. I realized that the visual effects created by Taymor were wonderful (as they always had been), but that when it came to acting and storytelling, no one was as concerned with excelling there, being content to settle for something along the lines of flashy children's theatre (a la Cats). To me, the meaning or thought of the piece didn't matter as much as the spectacle and general sentiment, which may have been a conscious decision - anyway it worked out for them, didn't it?
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Hilarious that the "Anyone see The Lion King when it was still in its prime?" thread immediately became the "Anyone want to kvetch and complain about what a crappy show The Lion King is?" thread. Shoulda seen that coming, I suppose.

The OP asked: "Was it remarkable then? Did you really believe it earned the Tony for Best Musical?" I believe that was a solicitation for any opinions, not strictly praise.

"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
Updated On: 8/11/14 at 03:27 PM
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...and I'm still trying to decide about whether it deserved the Tony. I like "Ragtime" a lot, much more than "The Lion King," but I'd pay for a ticket to "Lion King" just to see "Circle of Life" again. It's among the most astonishing things I've ever seen in the theater -- maybe THE most astonishing.
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I saw the original Broadway cast at the New Amsterdam right after it won (I went with a group) and it was fantastic-I'd never seen anything like it (I think my heart skipped a beat during "Circle of Life" and I loved "They Live In You" as well as Simba's act 2 solo "Endless Night"). I saw it on tour-and still loved it (that was early in the tour).
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I must say that I'm curious if it would receive as much negativity around here as it does if it had opened a season earlier and beaten Titanic (which it easily would have done) or a season later and won the award over Fosse (another easy win; I actually had to look it up because I couldn't even remember what had own that year). Seeing as how so many arguments against it seem to run "nothing good after the first ten minutes, and Ragtime deserved it more" it just makes me wonder of it's the contrarian nature of the internet that shouts against it. Clearly the show itself has endeared itself to many people. I don't think even Disney could keep it selling the way it has for this long if the sentiments of the general audience truly resembled that of the large majority of this board.

And I agree with best12. As an overall package it truly did deserve the Tony that year for accomplishing what many had thought would be utterly impossible.
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The Lion King was a gamechanger for Disney, Beauty and the Beast was successful but it's a fairly straight forward adaptation of the film but The Lion King film was seen as impossible to translate to the stage as it was quite cinematic in its storytelling, featured no humans and was fairly short and critics were expecting it to be similar to Beauty and just be actors dressed in silly costumes but the hiring of Julie Taymor as director and designer was made it different from the previous show.

Lion King is one of the few shows which on paper shouldn't work but does, Cats, Les Mis and to a lesser extent Phantom fall into this catergory
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Apologies to Adair, didn't read the first post in which you asked a specific question. And thanks, Mister Matt, for pointing that out. Guess I need to bone up on this whole inter web thing.
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"Hilarious that the "Anyone see The Lion King when it was still in its prime?" thread immediately became the "Anyone want to kvetch and complain about what a crappy show The Lion King is?" thread. "

The title alone implies the show is no longer in its prime, so that trajectory was pretty well mapped out from the get-go.
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I saw it about 5 or 6 years ago. I loved the opening...and then was very disappointed. I enjoyed anything that featured African music and dance, and disliked just about everything else. Especially the hyenas.

I was flabbergasted that this was the show that was so lauded and was breaking box office records. I'm even more surprised that it continues to do so. The audience wasn't terribly enthusiastic either. They went nuts for the big puppet stuff, and sort of checked out for the rest.

It had some fantastic visual moments, and a few terrific performances, but I found most of the stuff in between tedious enough to drag the whole experience down.

To be fair, I generally don't care for shows geared towards kids. The hype that this was some sort of mind-blowing, artistic masterpiece finally drew me in...so props to the advertising and PR folks!
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best12bars - that was a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.
I have never seen this on Broadway during any of my visits to New York though I have seen it here in Australia. I actually took my mother to see it this past weekend as a belated mother's day gift.
The opening sequence is amazing as most others on here have mentioned. It does seem to climax and never quite hits those highs again but I also think there are other great moments in the show. I like the overall message about believing in oneself and having faith that we are not alone. 'He lives in you' often manages to bring a tear to my eye.
I think the show could still benefit from another 15 minutes being cut. One song should be enough for Scar.
One new touch I enjoyed was at the beginning of Act two when Zazu is singing and Scar asks him to sing another song and he sings 'Let it go... let it gooooooooo' and Scar goes 'ANYTHING but THAT!!!!!'
I am a repeat attender and love seeing shows again. I have seen LK four times over ten years and now feel like I never need to see this one again. That box has been well and truly checked.
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I saw Lion King within the first year of its run at the New Amsterdam. I thought visually it was stunning, but couldn't be completely pulled in due to a few "Disney on Ice" type characters. That broke up the beautiful African art look of the piece. The other thing that annoyed me was how unprofessional the cast was. Every time they had to process down the aisles of the theatre, they were laughing, talking, loudly carrying on in the back of the theatre. I couldn't believe it! Finally, the actress playing young Nala saw someone she knew in the audience and waved at them from the stage.
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