Tonight I saw "The Lion King" on Broadway. It was absolutely magical. Visually stunning, the exquisitely trained voices of the performers, their incredible costumes and beautifully choreographed dance moves and fight scenes were mesmerizing. I was completely blown away by the way that Zazu and Timon were presented. Each of them has an actor behind them who is mostly meant to fade into the shadows and indeed, these actors are supremely talented. Even while they speak, they make their character move so that you believe it is the character who speaks.
What is more, the voices of those performing on Broadway matched up to the voices of the characters in the film (especially by Mufasa, Zazu and Timon). Simba was played by the incredible Dashaun Young (whose voice is to die for). And the special effects were out of this world. Ranging from Scar grabbing a real mouse out of a shadow upon a curtain to Mufasa's ghostly visage appearing in the sky while Simba peers into a pool to an incredibly vivid wildebeest stampede, the special effects light up the entire show. The scenery, costumes, acting, dancing, singing and gymnastics, in addition to the brilliant way in which every inch of the theater was used (characters walked or danced down the aisles on their way to the stage in several scenes) was dramatic and gorgeous.
I've never seen such a colorful, vibrant show. "The Lion King" is bursting with life and energy. It's haunting, intense and simultaneously marvelous. The grandeur of the stage and set is unparalleled. The show also incorporates extra parts, such as a psychology lesson where Timon holds on to a tree-branch while over a plunging waterfall, reminiscent of Simba's hold on the branch during the wildebeest stampede. While watching the musical, I was powerfully reminded of "Hamlet." It wasn't much of a surprise to learn later on (while passing a gift-shop) that "The Lion King" was actually based on "Hamlet."
It also occurred to me that so many motifs range around the forbidden. Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Beauty goes to the West Wing and Simba goes to the Shadowlands. The allure of the forbidden is powerful. Somehow, through watching this very real rendition of the story of the boy-king who carries a powerful burden of guilt, so many beautiful themes really came home to me. Simba tries to evade responsibility, living by the motto of Hakuna Matata, but in the end must embrace it. Rafiki is the one who shows him this, hitting him on the head with a staff and then telling him "but it's in the past" to which Simba replies "but it still hurts!" Precisely. Just because something is in the past doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. But it's despite that hurt that one choose to change and one must remember, as Mufasa adjures, "You are my son." Simba must reclaim the Pridelands- and his own pride- for the sake of honor but also of personal growth. The messages are true and relevant for children and adults.
The audience went absolutely gaga over the show and we all applauded and offered a standing ovation to the incredible performers. This is easily one of the best Broadways shows I've ever seen- and it's great that it's family-friendly as well.