The Lion King
- Kelly Apter
- 7 November 2013
This article is from 2013.
Costume and puppet designs steal the show in Julie Taymor's stage production of the Disney film
The Lion King has played to audiences the world over, with different casts bringing the Disney film to life each time. Everywhere it goes, the show is a hit, regardless of who dresses up as Simba, Scar or Pumbaa. And why? Because unusually for a stage musical, the star of The Lion King is not the performers.
Julie Taymor’s costume and puppet designs steal the show from the first note to the last. Whether it’s the giant elephant sauntering through the stalls during the opening parade, the oh-so-clever antelope ‘bicycle’ or the simple but hugely effective wildebeest stampede, Taymor’s vision is a triumph of theatrical ingenuity. Which is why a show which could easily have been deemed a kiddie musical is regularly visited by adults without a child in sight. The Lion King is for everybody – lovers of big budget family entertainment, theatre connoisseurs and everyone in-between.
To be fair, the music gives Taymor a run for her money. Songs such as ‘Circle of Life’, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ and ‘He Lives in You’, can leave the eyes feeling a little moist, and who isn’t cheered up by a quick blast of ‘Hakuna Matata’? In this particular production, there are also some fine performances – in particular from Ava Brennan as Nala, comic duo John Hasler and Lee Ormsby (aka Timon and Pumbaa) and the endlessly likeable Gugwana Dlamini as booty-shaking monkey, Rafiki.
But it is when everybody comes together as an ensemble that The Lion King really flies. The antelope canter, the lionesses leap, the birds flutter and an entire animal kingdom bursts in full voice before our eyes.
Edinburgh Playhouse, until Sat 18 Jan.