The Lion King*** (Lyceum Theatre)

Posted: March 21, 2014 in Theatre

photo-76It’s taken more than 14 years to get around to this, but better late than never. As expected, it is an extravagant triumph of colour and movement, set design and lighting, costumes and puppetry. Of course, in the intervening years, other productions have borrowed from and further advanced the techniques pioneered here, but Julie Taymor’s legendary production still dazzles. Added to this, Elton John’s score, expanded from the original Disney cartoon, is magnificent. If this show serves to introduce new generations to the world of wonder that theatre can create and to open their eyes to its possibilities, then long may it continue to run. It may matter little that the spoken sections are pedestrian or that, as in the cartoon, the story is very slight; it is the spectacle that counts. However, having been around for so long, the show runs like a well-oiled machine and, somewhere along the line, it may have lost some of its heart and soul, as it is not easy to connect with emotionally. There are carbon copy productions playing and touring all around the world, moving theatre closer to the territory occupied by cinema, driven by visual thrills, supported by mass marketing and merchandising; the result is that, in the end, The Lion King, feels like something that would be more at home in Las Vegas or a theme park, supremely accomplished technically, but lacking some of the key ingredients that make up the full experience of theatre.

Performance date: 20 March 2014

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