BWW Review: Audiences Feel the Love with THE LION KING at the Fox Cities P.A.C.
THE LION KING opened at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton on February 7 and will continue to play through February 24. Whether this is your first time seeing it or your 50th, it is an elaborate, engaging, immersive experience audiences are unlikely to forget.
The show closely follows the familiar plot of the 1994 classic Disney film. Simba is a young lion born to a royal family. However, when his father dies, he blames himself and goes into exile. In his absence, Simba's tyrannical uncle, Scar, takes control of the kingdom, and Simba must return to help those he loves.
THE LION KING is an undeniable hit, having been performed in 20 countries on six continents. It is easy to see why the show is so popular. THE LION KING relies heavily on large, vibrant puppets (by Julie Taymor and Michael Curry), making it distinctly unique and visually appealing. The movement and engineering of the puppets is entrancing. The choreography by Garth Fagan adds to the visual feast. Plus, memorable Elton John songs from the film pair with new numbers for a score that is both familiar and refreshing.
While the material lends itself to a terrific theater experience, the cast is what makes the show truly shine. Performers could easily get lost in the costumes and puppetry, but instead they shine with personality and energy to spare.
As Rafiki, Buyi Zama heads up "Circle of Life," one of the biggest and most well-known songs in THE LION KING. Her powerful voice and commanding stage presence add to the epic feeling of the number. Throughout her performance, she navigates seamlessly between wise and hilarious. It's also fun to listen to her speak different South African languages throughout the show. Pay particular attention to the segment where she speaks Xhosa, a language that relies extensively on clicks.
Gerald Ramsey, who plays Mufasa, has a powerful, resonant voice befitting a king. He is every bit the lovable, admirable leader that the plot requires.
Brilyn Johnston and Richard A. Phillips Jr. are full of youthful energy as Young Nala and Young Simba. Not only do they have tremendous dance skills and voices, their adorable bravado will undoubtedly appeal to the children in the audience.
Greg Jackson is funny and dynamic as Zazu. While the character can be a stick in the mud, he conveys the role with charisma and panache that make Zazu a lovable killjoy.
Simba's powerful emotional journey and personal growth are at the heart of the show, and Jared Dixon does a brilliant job conveying this evolution as Simba. Both his voice and movement change as the character grows more confident.
Nia Holloway conveys both fierceness and sensitivity as the lioness Nala. Her soulful voice adds emotion and power to her songs.
Spencer Plachy is delightfully devilish as Scar. "Be Prepared" is probably one of the best villain songs in history, and Plachy kills it.
While it is over 20 years old, the show still feels fresh; it even has plenty of new jokes. With so much to offer, it's no wonder that audiences just can't wait to see THE LION KING.
Photo Credit: Deen Van Meer