BWW Review: DISNEY'S THE LION KING at Broadway Grand Rapids Will Have You Feeling The Love, On The Path Unwinding In The Circle of Life!
Disney's The Lion King, currently playing through Sunday, December 1st at DeVos Hall. Making its Grand Rapids debut, after playing Detroit, Kalamazoo, and East Lansing in the past, Disney's The Lion King finally comes to Grand Rapids! Taking 17 full semi trailers to travel into town, It's full of The Lion King classic musical numbers and characters you know and love from the movie, and some new Musical numbers as well. They include the opening musical number "Circle of Life" to "Just Can't Wait to Be King" to the always funny and humorous number "Hakuna Matata" and the moving "Can You Feel the Love Tonight". These songs will be sure to have you singing along, having some goosebumps, and possibly some tears.
Disney's The Lion King is exactly that! For those who are big Disney movie fans, all the way back to when The Lion King was released on VHS years ago in 1995 to those who are fans of the recently released live action The Lion King movie: this is definitely a show you will know! It keeps all the parts of the original 1994 film, while adding some additional musical numbers, which fit in very well to be able to make this a full 2.5 hour Broadway show.
Starting with "Circle of Life" complete with "Nants' Ingonyama" by Rafiki (Buyi Zama) this was a stunning piece to kick off the show featuring one of the largest and heaviest multi-person costumes in the show for example an elephant that takes four people to carry it. There are alot of graphic background visuals going on stage during this number complete with the sun rising on the savanna. This is one of the biggest numbers in the show that you will not want to miss, which is why they have a block out for about the first 20 minutes of the show and for a little of the 2nd act.
Costumes and masks, designed by the shows director Julie Taymor, with assistance on masks and puppets by Michael Curry, are honestly worth the price of admission in their own right. With the wide use of bright colors and African fabric, the stage pops with each new character. The detail in the beading and stitching are amazing from any seat of the house. The same thing for the multiple hand carved masks for all the characters, who interestingly enough you can tell who they are without even hearing the name as each mask to me had very specific characteristics to the character they were designed to portray. Another interesting thing that the design, although there are masks, the actors face is fully visible for the whole time of the show. That adds a unique style to the show as well, the actor and mask act as one, even when you can see their face. The puppets are the same way, the character is blended to the person wearing it- the cheetah, giraffes, gazelles, antelope, and many various animals, even Timon and Pumbaa (whose costume is actually one of the heaviest single person costumes at approximately 60 lbs.). All the puppeteers and actors making all of the animals come to life were amazing and I can't say enough about this very important visual of the show.
The acting in the show was on point as well, from the wise, but smart acting Rafiki (Buyi Zama), who had points of comedic gold, just like Zazu (Jürgen Hooper) who had his own witty moments, but also was very serious and up tight. Then there was Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) reminding us of a very wise father or even grand father, the classic Disney villain, which in The Lion King is Scar (Spencer Plachy) who plays it very scary and dark perfect in his role with the voice and evil laughter, combine that with his hyena minions Shenzi (Martina Sykes), Banzai (Keith Bennett), and Ed (Robbie Swift), whose humor plays off well to the evilness of Scar.
You can't have a kid friendly show, with out having at least some kids in it. Young Simba played by (Richard A. Phillips Jr.), was so good, and I enjoyed his timing and playing to comedy, but he also played sad very well, leaving you want to cry at times, especially after loosing his father in the stampede. But would really like to point out his singing in "I Just Can't Wait to be King" with Young Nala (Brilyn Johnson) and Zazu, was so good. Combined with the sets and costumes, including the tallest in the show, this song played to all my expectations and some, since this is one of my top loved numbers from the show. The kids definitely fit there roles very well.
Related to kids, you can't mention The Lion King with out mentioning Timon (Nick Cordileone) and Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz) arguably the most recognizable characters, other then Zazu in the entire show, and they are a comedy pair not to be messed with as they sing the iconic "Hakuna Matata," and "In The Jungle." Finally, we have our grown Simba (Brandon A. McCall) who doesn't make his first entry until the end of Act 1, and Nala (Kala Cyphers) who didn't come in until Act 2. Kala's singing of "Shadow Lands" is chilling and emotional as she seeks out on a mission not knowing what she will find, and definitely brought some tears, and Brandon's song "Endless Night" has you on the edge of your seat, both of these new songs wrote for the stage show fit right in. Lastly another new song, "He Lives in You" a song Simba and Rafiki sing thinking about how his father is always with him.
Disney's The Lion King is one of the hottest tickets currently on tour, selling out every where it goes, including its run in Grand Rapids. It definitely lived up to every single thing I have heard about the show, and Grand Rapids is so lucky to get the opportunity to finally have The Lion King play in our city. I would 100% strongly recommend seeing Disney's The Lion King while it's in Grand Rapids.
Disney's The Lion King is currently running through Sunday, December 1st at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids. For tickets, visit https://www.ticketmaster.com/disney-presents-the-lion-king-touring-tickets.
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