The Lion King is the world’s #1 musical and it would be hard to argue against that. Fans of the Disney classic will have the chance to witness greatness from now through January 28. I attended opening night on Thursday, January 11 and I witnessed firsthand why this show is one of the best to ever hit the city.
The most memorable productions onstage always have a notable component or two that stands out. Often times it’s a song or two, stage design, or even props that “wow” their way into audiences’ memories. For me, a production that’s no longer on Broadway (and I felt was heavily underrated) was Starlight Express. If singing and dancing weren’t challenging enough, these characters had to do so on skates. The Phantom of the Opera is my all-time favorite and featured a flawless soundtrack and a decorative chandelier that falls from the ceiling to close out ACT I. After Thursday, The Lion King was added to my list of shows that I’ll never forget.
The opening scene in ACT I kicks off at Pride Rock and the song “Circle of Life.” Like the film, all the animals gather together at this central location to see King Mufasa’s new cub Simba, the next in line to be king. I never expected how this would happen at The Fox Theatre. After a thunderous drum (which is part of the song) my attention was drawn away from the stage and into the crowd. Before I knew it, elephants, giraffes, and other animals were walking down the aisles to the stage. The tallest animals in the show are 18-foot giraffes from “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” The two you’ll see in “Circle of Life” stand 14-feet high. What a way to open the show.
The production features three Atlanta natives – Nia Holloway as “Nala,” Courtney Thomas and Jane King as ensemble dancers. Holloway, who attended Norcross High School, is the youngest woman to play the adult “Nala” in The Lion King. Rounding out the rest of the cast are Mark Campbell as “Scar,” Gerald Ramsey as “Mufasa,” Buyi Zama as “Rafiki,” Nick Cordileone as “Timon,” Greg Jackson as “Zazu,” Ben Lipitz as “Pumbaa,” Gerald Caesar as “Simba,” Keith Bennett as “Banzai,” Martina Sykes as “Shenzi” and Robbie Swift as “Ed.”
As many complimentary remarks as I have for this show, I’m not sure any of them can describe my appreciation for the costumes and set designs. The props, puppets, and backgrounds for this show are absolutely incredible. With that, I’d like to acknowledge the following: Scenic Design- Richard Hudson, Costume Design- Julie Taymor, Mask & Puppet Design- Julie Taymor & Michael Curry.
I give The Lion King 10 out of 10. For Broadway shows, it’s not going to get much better. You’ll get to hear all of your favorite songs from the movie and a few added ones for the tour. You can find tickets HERE but they’re going fast! So be sure to grab a friend or a date and experience the best-of-the-best on Broadway… In Atlanta.