The Lion King Reviews

The Lion King roared and the West End cheered last night as this wonderful evening unravelled in the famous, restored Lyceum… Most impressively, our very own Zimbabwe-born designer, Richard Hudson, has created a fantasy world of savannah and veldt, of jungle and desert, of burnished colours and a great looming, swivelling rock that represents the seat of power. You hope all nights in the theatre will be like this… Julie Taymour, steeped in Bunraku puppets and Indonesian temple dancing, provides the most glorious commercial demonstration of the actor and the mask yet devised. You see the animal, and the actor, and you relish the manipulation and the beauty of the choreography. Watch out for a very slinky cheetah and a wicked trio of hyenas. The performance energy is not yet as high or as concentrated as it was on Broadway… Potent, popular, primitive and perennial, The Lion King restores true magic to the West End. The genius lies in the genorosity of spirit and the way it embraces so many types of song while providing an overall pictorial style. This is the ideal show for all children from eight to 80.” The Daily Mail

“Yes, this really is a musical that invents a better class of magic than those multi-million-dollar technological tricks and thrills flashing on celluloid. In a beautiful dazzle of invention and imagination, the true star of The Lion King, director Julie Taymor, has dreamed up a way of bringing an entire African jungle and its menagerie of animals thrillingly to the stage: eastern and western styles meet and merge. The Disney cartoon’s air of sweet whimsy is quite banished. With intricate mobile masks, puppets, exotic costumes and even stilts, which are all Taymor’s own creation, these jungle creatures, from prides of lions to jeering hyenas, capture a fresh dynamic theatricality. They look like a new alliance between the human and the animal as they parade, shuffle and athletically dance in Taymor’s brave new world, with its gusts of chanted African choruses. The giraffes are operated by actors on stilts concealed within the animals’ skin. The front legs of each zebra belong to performers who wear the same skin as the animal they play. Designer Richard Hudson’s jungle is equally startling, since it looks like a children’s picture-book brought to life with sudden promontories and gorges leaping into view… Taymor’s production – with its vivid set-piece parades of jungle life, birds on poles and animal silhouettes on backcloths – travels at exuberant pace, pausing for spectacular dramatics… It lights up the West End with the blaze of Taymor’s fabulous imagination.” The London Evening Standard

The Lion King roared into town last night and staked its claim as the mane attraction for the millennium. From the opening moment when the burning African sun rose on stage and a gaint elephant sashayed down the centre aisle it was clear we were in for some real Disney magic. Over £6Million has been poured into turning the hit cartoon movie into a musical. And it’s money well spent. You won’t see more colourful costumes or more imaginative back-drops anywhere else… The African music from Lebo M is stirring. Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice contribute showstoppers such as ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. But even if you don’t go home from London’s West End humming the songs you will sing the praises of the spectacular sets and exotic costumes. It’s a fun show for all the family. The Lion King rules okay. This one will roar and roar.” The Mirror

“Disney’s mighty Lion King has roared into the West End in triumph. I was bowled over by the show when I saw the premiere in New York two years ago, and if one was going to be coldly analytical, the Broadway staging probably just has the edge when it comes to precision and sheer pizzazz… Adults will enjoy The Lion King, especially those, in the odious modern parlance, still in touch with their inner child. But it is a great family show, and the word great is no exaggeration… The triumph of Julie Taymor’s often inspirational staging is that she constantly stimulates the imagination. Throughout this show about animals, you are aware of the humans inside the ingenious costumes, and the humanity of the narrative. Many of the characters wear masks not over their faces but on top of their heads, so you see both the human and the animal simultaneously, and there is no attempt to disguise the hands operating the beautiful and ingenious puppets. In this way the viewer is drawn into the show, invited to collaborate in a communal act of story-telling, rather than being merely gobsmacked with high-tech special effects. This is theatre at its potent best. The score is one of the finest in years. The pop songs by Elton John and Tim Rice are tuneful and witty, but it would all seem a touch bland if that’s all The Lion King had to offer. Fortunately the African composer Lebo M has added superbly haunting chants and vocal arrangements that combine Zulu tradition with the vibe of the South African townships. The result is that the show is distinctively African, with a strong sense of place and ritual, and when the adult Simba comes to reclaim the Pridelands, it is impossible not to be reminded of Nelson Mandela. As always with Disney, there are moments when it all seems a bit twee, others when it is excessively PC. But the ingenuity of Taymor’s direction and costume designs, the beautiful, simple settings by Richard Hudson, the power of the narrative and the wit of the dialogue (Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi are responsible for the excellent book) easily outweigh such critical niggles… For once a mega musical lives up to the hype. This is a dazzling show with the heart of a lion.” The Daily Telegraph

“There is enough jaw-dropping theatrical spectacle in The Lion King to tickle even the most hardened theatre critic’s palate. As the procession of animals makes its way down the aisle at the beginning or the cast controls a flight of coloured birds across the auditorium after the interval, you really are transported thousands of miles away from the Strand on a drizzly London night to the primary colours and vegetation of the Africa Savannah. The grass grows upward to become a swaying part of cast head-dresses. The flying and the exuberant, impeccably lit sets are stunningly imaginative too. And all that is counterpointed by some riveting, powerfully rhythmic African-style singing – as pure as plainsong – mostly by the elastic-bodied Gugwana Dlami…” The Stage

Book Tickets for The Lion King

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