Directed by Julie Taymor
Broadway Across America-Indianapolis
Through Dec. 28
Disney's The Lion King is a stunning work of art. No matter what you think about The Mouse and his empire, you have to admit that The Lion King on stage is a spectacle not to be missed. A family-friendly show that doesn't pander to just the under-10 crowd, the puppetry, music and staging are all top-notch. Crowds can't help but break into applause as the giant elephant starts lumbering down the theater aisles, or the menagerie of birds seem to really take flight, or the life-size giraffes make their way on stage.
The story follows that of the animated feature with additional musical numbers, as well as favorites "Circle of Life," "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," "Hakuna Matata," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and others. Each is faithful to the original vision of the movie, but is writ large, like with the giant, colorful birds Simba and Nala ride for "I Just Can't Wait to Be King." Original to the stage version and still one of the most powerful visuals in a theatrical setting, the lionesses pull long streamers of white fabric from their eye sockets during their mourning dance for Mufasa.
This touring production's troupe does justice to the musical (even though opening weekend saw some muddy ensemble numbers - I am blaming sound equipment). Phindile Mkhize not only shakes her booty in fine Rafiki fashion, but puts the oomph behind "Nants' Ingonyama." Young Simba and Young Nala show exceptional stage prowess for such young actors (each character has two actors, so I can't tell you which ones I am complimenting). Dionne Randolph is suitably regal as Mufasa, and Timothy Carter is slick as his nemesis, Scar, who secretly heads up the trio of goofy hyenas, Jayne Trinette, Randy Donaldson and Andrew France. Tony Freeman is an agile Zazu, and Timon and Pumbaa translate almost verbatim from the movie in the hands (and bodies) of Mark Shunock and Ben Lipitz, respectively. Andre Jackson and Dan'yelle Williamson seamlessly take over Simba and Nala as young adults. As with almost all touring productions, songs and scenes are exceptional.
So, bottom line, while tickets are pricey, I can assure you that they are worth it.
Disney's The Lion King continues through Dec. 28 at the Murat, 502 N. New Jersey St. Tickets are $19.50 (scarce) to $77, and a Premium Ticket Package is available for $132, which includes a prime seat location, a commemorative souvenir program and an exclusive merchandise item. For information, go to www.broadwayacrossamerica.com and for tickets, contact TicketMaster.