Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Lion King, 19 Feb 2015 ****1/2

Music and lyrics by Elton John & Tim Rice; additional music & lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, Hans Zimmer;
Book by Roger Allers & Irene Mecchi;  
Adapted from the screenplay by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, & Linda Woolverton
Regent Theatre, until (no closing date yet)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Thursday 19 Feb 2015
Stars:  ****1/2 
Reviewed this at opening, Thurs 19 Feb, 2015. Full review also ran in News pages of Herald Sun tomorrow, Fri 20 Feb, and on line on Arts page same day. 
See next blog for clip of the Herald Sun News pages review.

 Buyi Zama as Rafiki

It’s the opening night of the triumphant return of The Lion King in Melbourne, and the crowd gapes and cheers as an impressive parade of exotic, African animals sashays and chants along the aisles of the Regent Theatre.

Circle of Life (with Nants’ Ingonyama), the African-influenced opening chorus, is perhaps the most rousing of Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs in this spectacular, family musical based on Disney’s 1994 movie.

The African musical influences of call and response encourage the audience to sway, hum and toe-tap in their seats and the orchestra, under Richard Montgomery, is outstanding.

The most remarkable element of Julie Taymor’s production is its design that includes vivid and sensual masks, costumes and puppetry (Taymor and Michael Curry) that create the illusion of an African animal kingdom utilising the rich ochres, reds and greens of savannah and jungle.

The audience is immersed in a unique world of proud lions, yipping hyenas, prancing cheetah, leaping antelope and birds soaring overhead.

Garth Fagan’s choreography is sleek and evocative, especially for the elegant and lilting lionesses, led by Sarabi (Marvette Williams).

The Lion King is a fable about the King of Lions, Mufasa (Rob Collins), who trains his young son, Simba (Adam de Leon), to be the future king, but Mufasa weak and villainous brother, Scar, (Cameron Goodall) wants the throne for himself.

Buyi Zama as Rafiki, the mandrill, almost steals the show with her ebullient, cheeky characterisation, exceptional comic delivery and rich voice.

Every morality tale needs an antagonist and Josh Quong Tart is a fine villain as the envious Scar, balancing cool sarcasm with an edgy, grasping resentfulness that makes him like the Richard III of the lion world.

Goodall is dexterous and comical as Zazu, the zany Hornbill, who is a mincing, bird-butler to King Musafa.

A crowd favourite is the comic double act, Timon (Jamie McGregor), the meeercat, and Pumbaa (Russell Dykstra), the farting warthog; their comic timing and delivery are impeccable and channel the style of an old Vaudeville act.

The vile, creeping trio of yapping hyenas (Ruvarashe Ngwenya, Terry Yeboah, AndrĂ© Jewson) is another treat, and Jewson’s antics as the idiotic Ed are very funny.

Collins has some gravitas as Mufasa, Nick Afoa sings well as adult Simba and Josslynn Hlenti is a feisty, older Nala (younger Nala is played by Annette Tran).

Although some of the dialogue is uninspiring, the musical, choreographic and visual scenes are the draw cards in The Lion King, and the audience leapt to its feet as one at the curtain call reprise of Circle of Life.

This show is uplifting and entertaining so go along, forget all of your cares and sing, “Hakuna Matata” or, in English, “No worries”.

By Kate Herbert

Directed by Julie Taymor
Choreography Garth Fagan
Mask & puppetry design by Julie Taymor & Michael Curry
Musical director Richard Montgomery
Mufasa - Rob Collins
Scar- Josh Quong Tart
Zazu- Cameron Goodall
Sarabi - Marvette Williams
Timon -Jamie McGregor
Pumbaa - Russell Dykstra
Shenzi -Ruvarashe Ngwenya
Banzai- Terry Yeboah
 Ed- AndrĂ© Jewson
Nick Afoa -adult Simba
Josslynn Hlenti -older Nala
Adam Leon -Young Simba
 Annette Tran -Young Nala

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