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BWW Review: 'The King Has Returned' to Denver

Disney's The Lion King is in town through Jan 2, 2022

The Lion KingSomehow, I had managed to avoid seeing the Broadway production of The Lion King for its decades-long existence. Well, maybe not avoid necessarily--it was killing me that I'd never planned well enough to catch it. So until I did, I avoided anything that might make my first viewing any less magical than if I was my 8-year-old self seeing my first Disney musical on Broadway.

And just in case, I pocketed a few tissues.

They didn't last past the first number.

The Lion KingIt had already been nearly 2 years since I had sat in the Buell Theatre, so throw in "The Circle of Life" and I was a wreck with a wet mask. (Pro tip: bring a spare so you can swap it out if your emotions get the best of you, too.)

Truly, the iconic opening number is dazzling enough to be the whole show itself. With Julie Taymor's costumes and puppetry parading choreography down the aisles and filling up the stage, it was a wonder to me this show is nearly as old as I am. Yet it felt so fresh and artistic, not just the cartoon thrown together on a stage with cheesy costuming.

Yet those moments weren't abandoned. Scar's hyena henchman we just as goofy, and Timon and Pumba were essentially ripped from the screen. (I didn't fully grasp why Timon's puppeteer was green, though.)

I thought the stampede scene was so cleverly executed, and I got chills when the performers were flown across the stage. What's so neat about seeing a show that's been around for a while is you get to experience technical effects that aren't utilized quite the same anymore.

The Lion KingThe scene where Simba spoke to Mufasa in the stars sticks with me the most. The 3D effect of Mufasa's head in the stars was stunning, notably due to the accuracy of the performers huddled below creating it.

I still can't get over how the lion's heads moved so smoothly to cover the actor's face or above their head during more intimate interactions. I would see the show again just to be able to pay better attention to the costume details.

While all the songs from the movie are there, Elton John and Tim Rice wrote a few others to expand the score for the stage. I wasn't familiar with them before seeing the production, so they didn't stick with me quite as well as the classics.

The Lion KingI can't believe it took me so long to see it, but it definitely won't be another 25 years before I see it again.

Disney's The Lion King plays the Buell Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through January 2, 2022. Ages 12+ must be fully vaccinated to attend and wear masks for the duration of their visit. Click here for tickets.

Photos by Matthew Murphy

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