'Lion King' roars into
By Kristin Buchanan
The Daily Cougar
It's been eight years since the animated
version of The Lion King was released into theaters. The widely popular
show was the number one box
office opener in 1994, bringing in $40.9
million. In the first six days of its '95 release Disney's 32nd full-length
animated feature sold 20 million
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus/
Broadway in Houston
Simba, played by Josh Tower,
and the ensemble sing "He Lives in You" in Disney's The Lion King, which
will end its run at Jones Hall on August 25.
Most department stores have, at one point,
carried merchandise featuring stars from The Lion King, and the catchy
chorus to "Hakuna Matata" still
rings in many fans' ears today.
Continuing the story's popularity, Disney
premiered the Broadway musical form of The Lion King July 13 of '97 at
the Historic Orpheum Theatre in
Minneapolis. The show, more of an artistic
elaboration than a re-enactment, infuses African culture with the sights
and sounds of the original feature.
Just as The Lion King's story, based on
a book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, features unlikely alliances between
Timon, a witty meercat,
Pumbaa, a lovable warthog and Simba, a
would-be predator, the musical is the result of an unusual combination.
Between avant-garde artist Julie
Taymor, post-modern choreographer Garth
Fagan and corporate giant Disney, the trio came together to create a multi-award-winning,
traffic-stopping, world-renown show that
is revolutionizing Broadway.
Since Feb. '99, The Lion King has been
awarded with Best Musical, Best Musical Show Album and Best Scenic Design,
just to name a few.
On top of that, Julie Taymor is the first
woman in theatrical history to win the Tony Award for Best Director of
To anyone who has witnessed the onstage
spectacular firsthand, it's easy to see why.
The show begins with Fredi Walker-Browne
as Rafiki whose chants herald the coming of the king. The animals enter,
as in a royal procession,
through the aisles of the theater to the
And while the costumes allow the audience
to see the dancers, the dancers are so unified with the animals they portray
that the devices seem like
natural extensions of their bodies.
The costumes themselves are breathtaking,
each one different, each one a stroke of genius — in the imitation of the
real animals and in the
freedom each costume gives the dancers.
The Anthill lady's costume is a prime example,
featuring 106 artificial ants on her cone-shaped costume, yet allowing
her to gracefully dance across
the stage en pointe.
Garth Fagan's choreography clearly stretched
the dancers, not only in learning to become one with the animals they represent,
but in alternating
Fagan's choreography shines through a modern
dance number as the lionesses slink across the stage, hunting for food.
In the musical's most romantic moment,
three couples engage in a ballet-style pas de deux as Simba and Nala sing
"Can You Feel the Love
The score includes old favorites from Elton
John and Tim Rice's original Grammy Award-winning soundtrack for the animated
feature, plus eight
new musical numbers.
"They Live in You/ He Lives in You" is
the most inspirational, and perhaps most memorable song from the musical.
The number that spurs Simba on to greatness
marks one of the most majestic moments of the story.
As Simba claims his rightful place in the
Pridelands, the show ends in a magnificent display as each animal celebrates
the arrival of a new prince.
The Lion King is simply the most amazing
show I've ever seen, performed by the most passionate cast I've had the
pleasure of watching.
The costumes and scenic design are completely
awe-inspiring, and the singers possess some of the most powerful voices
I've ever heard.