CAN YOU FEEL THE LOVE TONIGHT? The roar of applause from the audience at the opening night of THE LION KING signaled a big ‘thumbs up’ for the Disney musical from its Manchester crowd.
Following record-breaking sales in the city the show has already extended its run at the Palace Theatre by 3 weeks and will stay in its northern home until 20th April 2013.
It certainly attracted a celebrity following with the likes of X Factor winner Shayne Ward and his actress fiancé Faye McKeever, Man City’s Joe Hart and football legend Sir Bobby Charlton amongst the stars turning out to view the production.
You don’t have to be a Disney fan to appreciate the sheer spectacle and delight of what The Lion King has to offer. From the popular opening number ‘Circle of Life’ the audience is treated to 2 hours of African magic as the versatile cast became an array of animals and performed with both an intensity and subtlety that brought tears to many an eye. I defy anyone not to get goosebumps as they witness an elephant (yes really) stride past them down the aisles followed by zebras, panthers and giraffes – there’s so much going on that sometimes you don’t know where to look!
Julie Taymor has really worked her magic on this production not only directing but also having a hand in costume design and additional lyrics. Taymor won 2 Tony awards back in 1998 for her work on The Lion King so it was inevitable that she would be called upon to take it on the road and her 4 years of hard work to make it happen has paid off.
With an international cast of 52 performers from 17 different countries this is a totally multi-cultural show. Watch out for some adorable performances from Young Simba and Young Nala (Auden Barnes) and (Donica Elliston) who are both engaging and energetic.
The true stars of the show, as in the film, are Timon and Pumbaa (John Hasler) and (Mark Roper). The comedy duo’s uplifting version of ‘Hakuna Matata’ has you humming it well after the curtain call – they bounce off each other perfectly and their use of puppetry is to be commended.
Nala (Carole Stenett) has such a velvety gold voice-her ‘Shadowlands is powerful and full of emotion. This is a new song, written especially for the stage show and it certainly stands side by side with many of the Tim Rice and Elton John classics in the show.
A special mention to the powerful wildebeest stampede scene, which ultimately leads to the emotional death of Mufasa (Cleveland Cathnott). The multi-layered set gives a real depth to the African plains as the rolling backdrop and energetic cast create an illusion of hundreds of wild animals charging towards the helpless cub, Simba and the equally awestruck audience. A fittingly cinematic piece of theatre which creates the pivotal point of the show and begins the entertaining story of how Simba becomes the King.
Interesting Fact: A fleet of 23 trucks has been utilised to transport Disney’s enormous production to Manchester, making it the largest theatre production ever to tour Europe
THE PALACE THEATRE, MANCHESTER
30 November 2012 to 20 April 2013
www.thelionking.co.uk or call 0844 871 3004