The Lion King is an award-winning musical, one of the longest-running of all time. It has traversed the globe and finally the dazzling production has made a stop at Place Des Arts in Montreal from August 9 to September 4. Long live the king!
The Lion King musical is a magical romp that follows the characters through the African grasslands with dazzling visuals and stunning costumes. In addition to directing the production and helping with the music, Julie Taymor also designed the costumes, masks and puppets that the actors wear throughout the production. The masks are mechanical so that they can easily obscure the human face, suspend audience disbelief and seamlessly transport the viewer to the world on stage.
Julie Taymor directs an all-star cast in the adaptation of the Disney film that brilliantly manages to retain the essence and charm of the original. The musical generally remains faithful to the script of the Disney movie, but there were some minor changes. For instance, Rafiki the beloved baboon is now a female baboon because Taymor wanted a strong female lead in the cast. Aside from that, the nefarious villain, Scar, tries to take young lioness Nala as his mate. That was definitely not in the original movie. Other than that The Lion King is a visually stunning and faithful rendition of a well-loved classic.
Throughout the production, the actors pop up all over the theatre, often opening songs while mingled in the crowd on the balcony. During The Circle of Life, giant elephants charged down the aisles toward the stage while dancers traipsed around the theatre swinging giant birds. The production is a completely absorbing experience where occasionally the entire theatre doubles as a stage.
Those familiar with The Lion King will recognize their favourite songs, like Hakuna Matata, I Just Can’t Wait to be King and, of course, the epic ballad Can You Feel the Love Tonight by Elton John and Tim Rice. All the songs from the movie that you want to hear are performed in the musical and you can look forward to some new numbers by composer Mark Mancina and Lebo M, who provided additional music and lyrics.
The set design was equally awe-inspiring. Set Designer Richard Hudson created a timeless set by evoking African textiles and prints and patterns that shift between contemporary and ancient styles. The Pride Rock scenes are bathed in golden light with the lush grasslands that we associate with the film, for the more dramatic moments and the storm scenes the entire theatre is transformed with elaborate light tricks.
The Lion King is a timeless story and a childhood favourite. Normally when you’re in a theatre and someone is talking loudly behind you, it’s annoying. But when it’s a child squealing because she’s seeing her favourite movie adapted to the stage, the talking is a welcome and charming addition. The Lion King seems to make everything okay. Hakuna Matata, am I right?