The lights dimmed and the stage went dark. A voice was heard from the sole performer on stage…
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Two more performers dressed like antelopes stood near the percussionists in the sides and joined in. Slowly, the ensemble marched in from different sides of the stage – some from the audience aisle.
It was mesmerizing. And I watching it from a seat close to the top most row of the theater. I wondered how it must’ve felt if I’m sitting in the orchestra seats.
Tagged as the World’s #1 Musical, The Lion King is one of the shows I wanted to see on stage. However unlike Les Miserables, my desire to see the production stemmed not just from the awards and recognition but with also, from the nostalgia it brings. I could still remember playing a cassette tape of the animated film soundtrack that we borrowed from a cousin. The Lion King has been my favorite animated film by Disney before Mulan. And when I read how it was turned into a theatrical production and seen the photos, I added it to the list of the shows I wouldn’t want to miss.
Sentimentality aside, The Lion King is worth every centavo. From the set design and the elaborate costumes and props – it is like they really brought to the theater the feel of the African savanna. The stage was warm with the shades of yellow and orange. I love how the ensemble mimic the animal movements using puppets. Whenever I see the cheetah and antelopes on stage, I can’t help but to look closely (using my theater binoculars) because of how their body movement really echo the animals they are portraying. The lionesses, even with just their headdresses, really moved like felines.
The main lions of the pride – Mufasa, Simba and Nala were superb both in the singing and acting. The hyena trio really resembled the quirks of the animated film counterparts. It is also worth mentioning how the comedic duo of Timon and Pumba managed to insert punchlines that the Filipino audiences could relate to. My sister and I especially loved Zazu and Rafiki.And of course, there is Scar who has truly embodied the sinister deceptive brother of Mufasa.
However, the final battle scene felt a bit short for me. I felt that it lacked a certain punch. Somehow, my mind wandered to the fight scenes in some of the local productions I’ve watched like Orosman at Zafira. At the back of my head I wondered what could have made it better. Maybe it’s in the size of the stage? I am not really sure.
But despite that, the show didn’t really lack with beautifully crafted parts like the reprise of He Lives In You, which is my favorite part of the whole musical and, of course, The Circle of Life, the show’s opening. Other notable scenes include the first look in the Shadowlands, Rafiki mourning, and the stampede.
Indeed, The Lion King is a theatrical masterpiece and I am happy to finally watch it before they close at May 27.