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Walking into the Eccles Theatre I had high expectations for The Lion King which I had never seen before. Those expectations were met and surpassed within the first three minutes of the production! The Lion King started out no less than amazing and kept not only myself, but my two younger children memorized until the final bow. It had an energy and excitement like no other Broadway show.
Gugwana Dlamini as Rafiki opened the show with powerhouse vocals that left you speechless and brought applause before she even finished. Dlamini set the stage which then began to fill with all the characters as they welcomed Simba to the Pride Land. The spectacle that unfolded was something I had never seen before on stage. The isles and stage flooded with giant yet incredibly graceful animals played by the ensemble. The costumes and sets were unbelievably beautiful as the actors created these characters that made your eyes wide with excitement. The giraffes on stilts might have been my favorite, next to the elephant that somehow made its way up the aisle and through the stage without missing a beat.
There wasn’t a character that didn’t wow me with their vocals and incredible stage presence. Mufasa, played by Gerald Ramsey, stood out with a strength that defined his character as the clear King. He had some of the most tender yet powerful moments in the show that brought a lump to your throat as he wrestled with being the King and Simba’s father at the same time.
Playing his opposition, Scar, played by Spencer Plachy was the perfect villain. His movement, facial expressions, and vocal power just screamed bad guy. On top of that he commanded the stage in a way that did not go unnoticed.
Young Simba played by Jaylen Lyndon Hunter and Young Nala played Scarlett London Diviney were a delight with so much chemistry that you couldn’t help but love them both. You could tell that Hunter was having the time of his life as he bounced around the stage with a fun innocence that was met with beautiful vocals. He was able to turn that young energy into a mature nature as the story brought in tension to his character. Nala was a little spitfire that you couldn’t help but be proud of. Both of them sang with unwavering and delightful voices.
As they grew up Simba played by Darian Sanders and Nala played by Khalifa White kept the same momentum of the fun cubs bringing an additional maturity and responsibility to their characters. Their vocals were beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of them onstage.
Timon and Pumbaa, played by Tony Freeman and John E. Brady, were amusing with a comedic timing that kept the audience in stitches. The kids and adults alike were catching their jokes as they brought back the nostalgia of the animated movie to stage.
The other main comedic timing came from the hyenas Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, played by Martina Sykes, Forest VanDyke and Robbie Swift, who provided not only the comic relief but some intense moments as the story unfolded. Their voices matched their characters so perfectly and kept you laughing.
Something I have to mention is the choreography by Marey Griffith. It was stunning. The actors continued to tell the story even when there was no dialogue through their dance which mimicked the animal characters they were playing. It was beautiful to truly see the Circle of Life through movement.
THE LION KING with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice; additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, and Hans Zimmer; book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi which is based on the classic Disney film was a delight for our Salt Lake audience. It runs through October 23rd and is not a show to be missed. You can find ticket information here.
*Tickets were provided to attend this performance but all opinions are my own
October 1, 2022