BWW Review: THE LION KING at the Eccles is Spectacular

BWW Review: THE LION KING at the Eccles is Spectacular

The national tour of Disney's THE LION KING, currently playing at the new Eccles Theater, is filled with visual spectacle and larger-than-life wonder.

THE LION KING (music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice; additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, and Hans Zimmer; book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi) is based on the hit Disney animated film. In addition to the songs and most memorable pieces of background score from the movie, the show also features new music, all arranged with authentic African chanting at the forefront. The story is of a young lion cub named Simba, who learns about the circle of life from his father, Mufasa, king of the Pridelands. However, Simba has become a thorn in the side of his uncle, Scar, who is scheming to ascend the throne himself.

The heart and soul of this production are Buyi Zama as Rafiki and Dashaun Young as Simba. Both bring athletic physicality and muscular vocals to their passionate performances.

The remainder of the leading cast is also outstanding, including Mark Campbell as Scar, Gerald Ramsey as Mufasa, Ben Lipitz as Pumbaa, understudy Tony Freeman as Timon (usually played by Nick Cordileone), Drew Hirshfield as Zazu, Nia Holloway as Nala, Keith Bennett as Banzai, Tiffany Denise Hobbs as Shenzi, Robbie Swift as Ed, Jordan Williams as Young Simba (double cast with Devin Graves), and Grier Burke as Young Nala (double cast with Meilani Cisneros).

The impressive ensemble's commitment and talent is on display at every moment from the opening note to the last and is inspiring.

More than individual performances or specific aspects of the music or script, this show is about the visuals, which tie together the at-times seemingly disparate components of the show (including the broad comedy and more adult dramatic elements) to form a cohesive whole. The visuals, of course, do not disappoint.

Director Julie Taymor is rightly celebrated for the lavish look, abstract staging, and immersion in African culture. Many different theatrical techniques from around the world are used with great success to convey the narrative.

Enough cannot be said about the unique, mesmerizing experience that unfolds due to the scenic design by Richard Hudson, costume design by Julie Taymor, lighting design by Donald Holder, mask and puppet design by Julie Taymor and Michael Curry, hair and makeup design by Michael Ward, and choreography by Garth Fagan.

THE LION KING is more than just a musical. It is an experience that is not to be missed and unlikely to ever be forgotten.

THE LION KING plays the Eccles Theater for a limited engagement through Sunday, April 16, 2017. For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit

Photo Credit: Buyi Zama (Rafiki). ©Disney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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