The Lion King opened at the Hollywood Pantages this weekend and is one of the shows I had on my must see list. So I of course took advantage of the opportunity and saw it, and I have many thoughts I want to share.
The Lion King is one of my favorite Disney movies and hearing how revered the musical is, I had high hopes. The show was good, but not perfect. There are many moments I loves and found stunning to witness, and some I would have wanted to be fixed or removed entirely. Let’s start with my critiques.
Most of my issues can be summarized as Disney softening the story from the original film, almost as if they wanted to make it more palatable for children. Yes, they made a children’s movie less serious. For example, some of the most emotional parts of the film are either sped through quickly or they added humor. We barely spent any time mourning Mufasa with Simba, and the battle for the thrown had Timon and Pumba being goofy. These moments are monumental and emotional, but not treated as such.
Something newly added to the show that, in my opinion, needs to be removed is a briefly mentioned and never concluded bit about Scar thinking that in order to gain respect, he needs a queen. And he chooses Nala to be that, which is so incredibly uncomfortable and inappropriate. Scar’s characterization in general is odd and doesn’t fit the movie version at all. And this changed character makes him a much less impactful villain.
Now I want to share what I loved. And let’s start with characterizations that were good. Pumba was the loveable character from the movie. Nala was also great and one of my favorites. But hands down the best character in the entire show is Rafiki. Such a fun character who is comedic and heartfelt, much like the movie. It was a joy to have Rafiki on stage honestly.
The visuals are really amazing, especially when it is the cultural additions outside of the Disney aspects. The puppetry is as good as they say. One moment that truly wow’ed me was when Simba speaks to his father in the sky. The create Mufasa’s face using physical pieces that the ensemble brings together amongst the stars. It is hard to explain but magical to see.
Musically, the new songs were more often my favorites over the movie classics. Circle of Life is amazing of course, but my favorites are They Live In You and the reprise, as well as Shadowland. These are inspired by the score from the film and are so beautifully powerful.
Overall I did enjoy the show and had a good time watching it. I laughed and was wowed, even if some moments were questionable. I understand why it is a best musical winner and I’ll happily showcase the playbill in my collection.
What Disney film do you want to see become a stage show? Let me know with a comment!
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