The Lion King Roars Onstage — A Review
By freelance writer Michael P Coleman
I may have been the final musical theatre fan in the world who had not seen The Lion King in any of its stage incarnations. (If that’s not true, hit me up in the comments.)
I happen to think that the original animated version set a standard that I didn’t think could be replicated, let alone improved upon, on stage.
I was wrong. While that animated feature presents some really big shoes to fill, this Lion paws more than fill them!
If you’ve not seen it, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the production’s use of the full venue, aisles included, during the show. While you may have heard about that, you’re not ready for it when a variety of characters join you in filling up the theatre, along with the production’s glorious music.
For many, this show may be a homecoming of sorts, according to Rainer Koeners, Managing Director of BroadwaySF.
“For some of you, this might be a welcome back,” Koeners said in a prepared statement. “Perhaps you saw the show in this very theatre during its first visit to the Orpheum 19 years ago. Maybe you’re experiencing the magic of this production for the very first time. No matter if this is your first or fourth time seeing The Lion King on our stage, we’re so glad you’re here.”
“From the moment the curtain rises, it’s clear why more than 110 million people have this show worldwide,” Koeners continued. “Whether in New York or London, Japan or Brazil, coming to The Lion King always feels like coming home.”
As well done as the production is, I was particularly worried that one key scene wouldn’t translate well from hand drawn animation to the live stage: Scar’s big “Be Prepared” number. It was so well drawn in the original, let alone performed by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, that I didn’t think a live production would be able to deliver the same punch.
(Spoiler Alert!) Mufasa’s death? Ditto.
Simba’s return and resurgence? Ditto!!
While all of the performances were strong, the actors portraying the adult Nala and the grown up Simba (Khalifa White and Darian Sanders, respectively) were perhaps the best. Both actors fully inhabited the characters, had some of the strongest sets of pipes I’ve ever heard, and they both left it all on the stage.
Speaking of leaving, I loved the show so much I left the Orpheum Theatre with a sack full of merch!
Treat yourself to The Lion King on stage, if not during the balance of its run in San Francisco, then somewhere…and soon.
Connect with freelance content creator Michael P Coleman at MichaelPColeman.com.