BWW Review: THE LION KING, Edinburgh Playhouse
First staged in 1997, The Lion King is a musical based on the Disney film of the same name. It is the highest grossing Broadway musical of all time and has been delighting audiences all over the world.
Set in the majestic Serengeti, The Lion King tells the story of a young cub named Simba who is destined to be king of the pridelands. When Simba loses his father Mufasa (played by Jean-Luc Guizonne), his evil uncle Scar (menacingly portrayed by Richard Hurst) encourages him to run away and convinces him that the death was his fault.
It's not really a surprise that Disney don't do things by halves. As the animals parade down the aisles of the stalls during the opening bars of "The Circle of Life", the audience are completely captivated. Often when a Broadway/West End show heads out on tour some of the show is scaled down but that certainly isn't the case here- The Lion King is a visual treat from start to finish.
The thing that makes The Lion King particularly special is the way all of the animals are represented. Most are intricate puppets operated by performers who aren't exactly disguised but you soon forget they are there as the puppets are so realistic and operated so well- in particular Matthew Forbes who was puppeteer for Zazu. The masks of the lions are incredibly intricate and there are posters with trivia dotted around the venue that highlight the significance of each detail on the masks which is a lovely touch.
The young lions were played by Theodore Somulu (Simba) and Stella Harris (Nala) who are confident performers and bring a lovely mischievous quality to the roles. In the second act, Simba is played by Dashaun Young and Nala by Josslynn Hlenti whose stunning vocals shine during "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" The ensemble cast are exceptional throughout and work so well for scenes like the wildebeast stampede and numbers that build the spectacle such as "He Lives In You (Reprise)".
The much-loved dialogue from the film is present but it has been updated slightly with things like Zazu singing 'Let It Go' to annoy Scar and get big laughs from the audience. While the appeal of the show for me lies in the beautiful songs and the stunning costumes, I am fully aware that the children in the audience are largely about the farting warthog. Who certainly delivers.
The Lion King is the rare kind of show with the ability to strike wonder with both young and old. An absolute joy.
The Lion King runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 29 March 2020.