A new generation of cats just took over Broadway. Simply said, Julie Taymor's staging of Disney's "The Lion King" is a marvel, a theatrical achievement unrivaled in its beauty, brains and ingenuity. Leaping far beyond its celluloid inspiration, the stage version improves upon nearly every aspect of the hit 1994 animated film, from visual artistry and storytelling to Lebo M's score and the newly African-ized pop songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. With this production, the Walt Disney Co. stages itself as a serious and ambitious contender on the legit scene, all but demanding that its first theatrical foray, 1994's too-literally adapted "Beauty and the Beast," was little more than a warm-up.
THE LION KING Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The Lion King on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for The Lion King including the New York Times and More...
Yes, The Lion King's pacing drags a bit in the first act, and the show's venue, Disney's opulently refurbished New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, has a few kinks (you'll miss a lot of the show if you're seated too far to the side). But Taymor's amazing vision overrides any quibbles. The Lion King can make you fall in love with theater no matter what theater it's in.
Where are you, really, anyway? The location is supposed to be a theater on 42d Street, a thoroughfare that has never been thought of as a gateway to Eden. Yet somehow you have fallen into what appears to be a primal paradise. And even the exquisitely restored New Amsterdam Theater, a former Ziegfeld palace, disappears before the spectacle within it. Such is the transporting magic wrought by the opening 10 minutes of 'The Lion King.' Unfortunately, it turns out that these glorious opening moments are only the honeymoon part of this fable of the coming of age of a lion with a father fixation. Throughout the show's 2 hours and 40 minutes (as against the 75-minute movie), there will be plenty of instances of breathtaking beauty and scenic ingenuity, realized through techniques ranging from shadow puppetry to Bunraku. Certainly, nowhere before on Broadway has a stampede of wildebeests or a herd of veldt-skimming gazelles been rendered with such eye-popping conviction. But in many ways, Ms. Taymor's vision, which is largely rooted in ritual forms of theater from Asia and Africa, collides with that of Disney, where visual spectacle is harnessed in the service of heartwarming storytelling. There will inevitably be longueurs for both adults and children who attend this show. But it offers a refreshing and more sophisticated alternative to the standard panoply of special effects that dominate most tourist-oriented shows today. Seen purely as a visual tapestry, there is simply nothing else like it.
Come to The Lion King with two pairs of eyes, one ear, and half a brain. You will be bombarded by some of the most beautiful and spectacular sights theater can offer from before and behind, so eyes in the back of the head will come in handy. You will be harangued by second-rate standard-show music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, and also by Lebo Mï's stirring African chants and ululations, to which your active ear should be cocked. Finally, you will be subjected to a well-worn, simplistic children's tale about a lion cub's hard road to adulthood and the throne of the animal kingdom, usurped by his wicked uncle in cahoots with some murderously laughing hyenas.