19 June 2007

The Lion King

The Lion King

What an amazing, larger-than-life experience! I have been yearning to see this show ever since my first glimpse of it at the Tony Awards all those years ago. It has been well worth the wait.

Using a combination of masks, bunraku puppets, body paint and shadow puppetry, the splendour and diversity of an African savannah is created. It's brilliant and the visual animation on stage is truly the essence of the show.

Most of the lead actors have performed their roles before in productions all over the world and with the exception of Scar's Mark Rayment, all are South African.
The first few notes of Buyisile Zama's Rafiki literally sent shivers down my spine.

I enjoyed the local flavour. Shenzi has a Cape flats accent and Pumbaa uses more than a few Afrikaans words. Even little Nala got a huge laugh with a very well timed "Hey Wena!". This kind of thing is often used to gain a few more laughs in regional productions, but here it also helped to strengthen the diversity of the characters.

The wildebeest stampede was incredibly powerful, and with the exception of maybe the opening sequence and Simba's vision of Mufasa, my favourite in the whole show.

It's strange, the theatre itself feels small and intimate, but it seats over 1900 people! It is so well designed that there's basically not a bad seat in the house, since you are no further than 33m for the stage wherever you sit. I love the way the acoustic tiling inside the theatre is reminiscent of woven reeds - distinctly African, but not overbearing.

The best part? I'm going to see it again in July, this time from the front row, courtesy of my really, really cool boss.

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