Lion King: is it getting worse?

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TonyVincent
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Lion King: is it getting worse?#1
Posted: 9/1/16 at 9:01am
Despite having seen hundreds of Broadway shows the past 10 years, I had never gotten around to Lion King until last night, when I won the lottery. I was very optimistic after hearing two decades of praise.

I was extremely disappointed, and after a search of this board, I see that I'm not alone in that opinion. However, I'm guessing it's gotten even worse recently, so I'm wondering if those that have seen it multiple times can confirm my suspicions:

- The set and costumes looked run down. The most egregious was a large rip in the accordion paper sun so it hung asymmetrically.
- Many performers were out of sync and awkwardly looking around at other dancers to figure out if they were on the right step. The cast on the whole looked unsuited for a Broadway stage. During the stampede, actors stood on stage and listlessly moved the wildebeest heads back and forth. I felt zero tension.
- There were many voice cracks, off-key notes, and sound balance issues. You couldn't hear Scar at all in Be Prepared.
- There are feeble attempts to keep the show relevant. Zazu quotes Frozen at least 5 times, attempts at humor that felt oddly anachronistic.

If you dropped me in my seat and told me it was an amateur community theater with a big prop budget, I would have believed you.

Add all this to the fact that the show drags and unsuccessfully treads the line between kiddy theater and a Broadway show. Flashing a strobe during fight choreography or 0.5mph falls doesn't hide the lack of realism. The techno dance breaks, the LSD trip in "Just Can't Wait to be King," and the electric guitar orchestrations feel out of place. And when the costumes are not mimicking animals, they look like a cross between Maasai warriors and 80s rap video backup dancers.

Of course, the 99% tourist, mostly-foreign crowd ate it up--when they weren't talking through the entire show, that is. It grosses $2mm a week, so I guess at the end of the day it really doesn't matter if everyone is phoning it in.

But I'm curious--how much of it is recent deterioration, and how much of it is the show itself?
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Lion King: is it getting worse?#2
Posted: 9/1/16 at 9:09am

I can't say whether I agree or not because I saw it in 2014 on a school trip. I was moved by it, as were my friends, and I enjoyed the show. The only thing I can comment on was that at some point early on in the show the Timon puppets hand actually fell off on stage. I think it was fixed during intermission but I can't remember for sure, so in that sense yeah maybe the puppets could use some maintenance. 

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#3
Posted: 9/1/16 at 9:13am

I saw the show about 7 or 8 years ago and I was thoroughly disappointed as well. I try to warn anyone going to see a Broadway show that almost anything else is better. I think 40% of the problems lie with the show itself. There were not enough changes made to the book to elevate the movie script into a Broadway show, IMO. But I also distinctly remember a severe lack of talent on stage....Nala could barely carry a tune when I saw it. The thing that does surprise me, from your review, is the current state of the set/props. I guess the only thing we can do as a theater-goer is not go back?

The only other thing you could do to draw awareness is tweet your feeling to the official show's twitter (and tag Disney too)...I've recently been surprised at the response a tweet like that can get - these companies hate bad PR.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#4
Posted: 9/1/16 at 9:15am

I saw it years ago and felt the same thing. The show really lacks emotion.

 

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#5
Posted: 9/1/16 at 9:21am

I saw it when it first opened, and then again about 3 years ago, and felt the same thing both times. The opening number was the only thing I truly liked.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#6
Posted: 9/1/16 at 10:11am

Its one of my favourite shows for sentimental reasons, however that being said I haven't seen it in NYC since 2013

Surprised to hear about the sun thing, chances are that is an issue that happened there and then and therefore no time to fix it, but usually they keep that show running in good shape.

Personally though I preferred the 'feel' of it back when it was in the New Amsterdam because that theatre itself was part of the experience. I just find the Minskoff so uninviting and impersonal

Curious though, where were your lottery seats? do they do back row or are they random unsold seats?

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#7
Posted: 9/1/16 at 10:35am

I have seen both the tour and the Broadway production pretty recently. Both productions felt flat and "faded". No emotion or heart. I also find the show to be a colossal bore of epic proportions except for the opening number.

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TonyVincent
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Lion King: is it getting worse?#8
Posted: 9/1/16 at 10:55am
Justin D said: ">Curious though, where were your lottery seats? do they do back row or are they random unsold seats?

"



We were 3rd row from the back of the mezz, but dead center, so not sure if they were unsold or the usual location.

I do know my wife and I both won, when we've entered hundreds of times before and lost every time, so I wonder if a large group canceled day-of and they decided to fill it with lotto tickets.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#9
Posted: 9/1/16 at 11:56am

The biggest problem with Lion King is that it never gets better than that opening number (which mad me cry uncontrollably for reasons I'm still not sure.  But there is a beauty to what is happening around you mixed with the beauty of that song).

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#10
Posted: 9/1/16 at 12:00pm

The opening number—which is a complete triumph—is completely viewable without buying a ticket, which is why I'll never shell out a penny to see the show again:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T57kzGQGto

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#11
Posted: 9/1/16 at 12:04pm

I'm in the minority here I guess in that I absolutely loved it when I saw it, though I never saw it on Broadway or recently - I saw it in Las Vegas back in 2009, and was wowed by everything design-wise. As for the show itself, it was what I expected and I found it an acceptable translation of the film. It was a great enjoyable night for me, and I still have fond memories of it. It is a shame if they're not having good upkeep on the stage and the set nowadays though.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#13
Posted: 9/1/16 at 12:57pm

TonyVincent said: 
- The set and costumes looked run down. The most egregious was a large rip in the accordion paper sun so it hung asymmetrically."

This honestly shocked me.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#14
Posted: 9/1/16 at 2:45pm

I loved the opening, after that I found myself checking my watch. I wouldn't sit through this show again even if given the best seat in the house.

Now living in DC. I really have to change my name on the board.
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Lion King: is it getting worse?#15
Posted: 9/1/16 at 3:20pm

vfd88 said: "TonyVincent said: 
- The set and costumes looked run down. The most egregious was a large rip in the accordion paper sun so it hung asymmetrically."

This honestly shocked me.


 

"

That seems like an easy fix. Can't they just replace it on a Monday? 

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#16
Posted: 9/1/16 at 4:49pm

^ it's entirely possible that the damage occurred moments before the top of the show, and that it's already been repaired/replaced. 

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#17
Posted: 9/1/16 at 5:07pm

I saw it in the West End in 2014 with a friend and we hated it. Okay maybe I hated it and she was really disappointed.

I would say all your points are consistent with my experience in London, so I won't repeat them all. But I definitely asked myself, how are these people on this stage? Mediocre/weak singing, out-of-sync and uninspired dancing, etc. Scar was boring.

Unbeknownst to me, another friend and her boyfriend saw it in 2015 here on Broadway. They hated it. Had I known, I would have warned them to not see it. She said they couldn't pay her enough to sit through it again.

All four of us were excited to see it going in (because of the raves).

But I have a friend from London who saw it with her whole family (all adults) -- in West End, I presume -- and loved it. I've definitely heard tourists here (NYC) about how "amazing" the show is.

So... I dunno. Well, I mean, the answer to your question is "no". Fairly sure it's just what it is and always has been.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#18
Posted: 9/1/16 at 5:12pm

I am someone who has always been a fan of the show. However, I returned last November and was really disappointed. Firstly, let me say, the kids were wonderful. But the rest of the show.. I hate to be so negative, but let me say I left at intermission. I spent most of act 1 cringing.

I also had a real issue hearing the lyrics too. Chow Down in particular was incomprehensible (to be fair, I have had an issue with that song in the past, but it was very noticeable that time). 

I will agree though that Circle of Life is still stunning!

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#19
Posted: 9/1/16 at 5:28pm

but the set is not even 10 years old!

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#20
Posted: 9/1/16 at 5:58pm

Several years ago when the Tonys were held in Radio City, the opening number was done in that setting and it was spectacular. I, too, found myself tearing up. But I have never had the slightest interest in seeing the whole show since that seemed to be the best part.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#21
Posted: 9/1/16 at 6:15pm

NZBOY2 said: "but the set is not even 10 years old!

 

"

Not even ten years old? The show has been running for almost 20 years. Unless they replaced the set mid run(did it get replaced when it transferred to the minskoff?) I don't believe it's only ten years old.

 

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#22
Posted: 9/1/16 at 6:49pm

Agree with consensus here. Saw it years ago and then went back with a friend a few years later. My friend was stumped as to why this show has the success it has. As everyone has said, great opening number that the show never comes near again. Don't get the long run here.

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#23
Posted: 9/1/16 at 7:00pm

Sorry my mistake http://www.playbill.com/article/circle-of-life-lion-king-reopens-at-the-minskoff-theatre-june-13-com-133141  why did they not transport one of the newer os productions

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#24
Posted: 9/1/16 at 7:26pm

The Australian production was as boring as **** as well, stunning opening, dire from than onwards .

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#25
Posted: 9/1/16 at 7:42pm

I loved it the aus production 

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Lion King: is it getting worse?#26
Posted: 9/1/16 at 8:05pm

Lion King was never on my list, but my parents really wanted to see it, so I took them out a few months ago ffor my dad's birthday. A few seconds into the opening number, I was openly weeping in my seat and my parents were SO confused. There's something so sweeping and emotional about it - it's really worth the experience, IMO.

Of course, the rest of the show doesn't quite live up to that, but all in all, it was a fun night out. As someone who went with very low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised.