Review: DISNEY'S THE LION KING at the Detroit Opera House Transcends with Ingenious Costuming and an Epic Score

See one of Broadway's biggest hits at the Detroit Opera House until February 20th.

By: Jan. 31, 2022
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The Lion King
Lionesses Dance
Photo by Deen Van Meer
© Disney

Disney's The Lion King, a groundbreaking musical and the third longest-running musical on Broadway, is in the middle of its nearly month-long reign at the Detroit Opera House, where it will stay until February 20th. Based on the 1994 Disney film, The Lion King premiered on Broadway in 1997 and would eventually collect a slew of awards all over the world, including the 1998 Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Choreography, and more. From the very moment the curtain is up at the Detroit Opera House, you see exactly why The Lion King has earned all these awards.

The Lion King centers on a royal family of lions who rule an area of Africa called the Pride Lands. At the top of the show, King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi give birth to their son, Simba, who is destined to become the king. In short, the musical is about the lengths evil uncle Scar will go to in order to steal the crown from Mufasa and Simba.

Picture this: Lights in the theatre are dimmed, the curtain comes up, and spotlighted on the right hand side of the stage is Rafiki, belting out the first few verses of the famous opening number, "Circle of Life." Within a few moments, the stage is covered with cast members decked out in the most amazing costumes of giraffes, cheetahs, birds, lions, and more. Shortly after that, even more cast members start to come down the aisles of the orchestra, allowing audience members to see the Tony-winning costume designs up close.

The Lion King
Circle of Life
Photo by Brinkhoff-Mogenburg

Starting from the opening number, you're immediately immersed in the universe of the Pride Lands. The Lion King isn't just a "Disney show" - it's an experience from beginning to end. This extends beyond the costumes and the choreography - the score and the singing is sure to give you chills. Some of these songs include the aforementioned "Circle of Life," as well as "They Live in You," the Oscar-winning tune "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "Shadowland," "Endless Night" and "He Lives in You (Reprise)." On the other side of the spectrum, there are also songs that are there simply to make you smile, such as "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" and "Hakuna Matata," two songs that were made famous by the original film.

The Lion King is very much an ensemble show, and it seems like every single member has their moment in the spotlight, especially with the awe-inspiring costuming.

As the understudy for Mufasa, Aaron Nelson embodied the true spirit of a king, and his perfect rival took the form of Spencer Plachy's menacing and unforgiving Scar.

Charlie Kahler and Kalandra Rhodes were positively adorable as Young Simba and Young Nala respectively, making you believe their connection all the more when they reunite in act 2 in the form of Darian Sanders and Kayla Cyphers. Sanders stole the show during his number "Endless Night," meanwhile Cyphers' hauntingly beautiful solo "Shadowlands" kept you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.

The Lion King
Kayla Cyphers as Nala and Buyi Zama as Rafiki
Photo by Deen Van Meer

Another star was Jürgen Hooper, who plays Zazu, a hornbill that serves as the advisor to the royal family. His quips and mannerisms are everything you'd want out of Zazu, and more. Read our interview with Hooper here for an insider's look on what to expect out of the show.

A feat of modern musical theatre, The Lion King is a masterpiece reminiscent of other Disney musicals, but it's even more than that. Above flashy dance numbers and childhood favorite songs, this musical shows us that we have a responsibility to reach our fullest potential and have faith in yourself. As a message that resonates with audience members of all ages, The Lion King is absolutely worth the trip to the Detroit Opera House.

And in the city of Detroit, it's a refreshing change of pace to finally have some lions that are a pleasure to watch.

For more information or to buy tickets to Disney's The Lion King, visit, call 800-982-2787, or visit the Fisher Theatre in Detroit.

To keep updated with Disney's The Lion King, follow them on their website at, on Twitter at @TheLionKing, on Instagram at @thelionking, and on Facebook at You can also check out the Disney on Broadway TikTok account at @disneyonbroadway.