Well, I finally got to go see the musical version of TLK this last week, and the first few words that come to my mind are: amazing, stunning, and unbelievable! I was a little unsure at first, wondering how in the world Disney was going to manage putting a film starring non-human characters, and animated ones at that, onto a three-dimensional stage. However, using all their Disney magic, with a little help from a great stage producer, The Lion King Musical kept my rapt attention just as the movie had, not three years ago.
Right from the beginning, wonderful costume and prop design showed through. The opening sequence starred Rafiki, played by Tsidii Le Loka, singing Circle of Life. The animals' journey to Pride Rock led them right though the audience, which was quite a feat considering the larger animals, such as an elephant, had to be 'folded' down to fit through the theatre doors. The stage set featured a type of spiraling staircase to a promontary, representing Pride Rock, along with several little trap doors and the ability to have the entire back half of the stage tilt upward, for use in later scenes.
The storyline itself followed very closely to the movie's plot. Most of the dialog remained the same, and a couple new scenes were added to both flesh out the story and to allow for set changes in one case. I feel one of the most notable additions to the storyline included a little scene that might make a few fan-fic authors happy. This scene revolves around the new song, "The Madness of King Scar", in which Scar laments the fact that though he is the king, none of his pride adores him. His solution is to find a queen, and fittingly enough, the next character to enter the cave is Nala, there to ask Scar about food and the sort. Scar immedately recognizes his chance, and makes several attempts to woo the young lioness, sending her running out of the cave at the end of the song.
Speaking of songs, as one might expect from a play that runs a full hour longer than the story that it was based on, a few new songs were added to the play. Besides the aforementioned lament "The Madness of King Scar", "The Morning Report", and "Chow Down" were totally new songs. The first was a bouncy tune that you may have already guessed the placement of. This song takes the place of most of the morning report/pouncing lesson scene from the movie, incorporating both into the song. "Chow Down" could almost be classified as a heavy metal type song, sung by the hyenas during the first small chase scene in the Elephant Graveyard. Several other songs were taken and/or modified from songs found on the Rythmn of the Pridelands CD. These included "They Live In You", a slight word modification from "He Lives In You" and used during the 'under the stars' scene, "Shadowland", a beautiful solo piece sung by Nala (with accompanment from Rafiki and The Lionesses) to the same tune as "Lea Halalela" right after her encounter with Scar and before she leaves the Pridelands, and "Endless Night", a solo sung by Simba to the tune of "Lala" as he wonders if his father is still out there watching him. A slightly longer version of "One by One" was used as an opening song for the second act, with the Ensemble dressed in ethnic outfits and making the air come alive with bird/kite type things (They're *really* hard to describe). "Busa" was also used in the closing scene, very similar to its use in the movie. Another notable addition was the 'lost' reprise of "Be Prepared", which was added in instead of Scar telling the pride about his 'deep, personal loss'.
Now as much as I really loved this musical, there were a couple things that got to me. I personally think they ruined the Can You Feel the Love Tonight scene by adding a good solid couple of minutes of something that reminded me of interpretive dance. I didn't feel it really belonged in that scene, nor the entire musical. It just didn't seem to fit right. The other thing that just wasn't right was that some of the translations from the movie to the stage were not done accurately. An example being that at the very end of the production, when Scar is thrown of of the peak to the pack of hyenas below, he uses the line from the movie, "Ahhh, my friends." And of course, the obvious reply by the hyenas, "Friends? I thought you said we was the enemy... (etc)" However, in the fight scene before that, no reference is made to Scar calling the hyenas the enemy, nor the fact that the hyenas are even there (Does this get me into the Nitpicker's Guild?). Little inconsistancies such as this, are usually only noticable by true TLK fans, but since I'm writing this as a fan, for a fan page, I figured it was of note :)
All in all, however, The Lion King Musical was more than worth the money paid for the ticket. It was well done by all actors involved, and a special standing ovation should be paid to the producer of the musical. I encourage all fans that live within reasonable driving distance to make sure to see this production before it leaves your town!
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