The Lion King is a musical based on the 1994 Disney animated film with the same name with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical features actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. The show is produced by Disney Theatre Productions.
As the sun rises, Rafiki the mandrill calls the animals to Pride Rock. She greets King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi before presenting their cub to the gathered animals.
Mufasa’s brother, Scar, laments his lost chance at becoming king. Back at her baobab tree, Rafiki paints an image of the cub and asks the spirits to conjure the new prince’s name: Simba.
Time passes and Simba grows into a lively young cub. Almost an instantaneous change in the show! Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands from the top of Pride Rock and explains that everything exists in a delicate balance known as the Circle of Life. Mufasa warns Simba not to stray beyond the boundaries of the Pride Lands, pointing out a shadowy area in the distance. Zazu, a hornbill who acts as Mufasa’s advisor, arrives and delivers his daily report on the events in the King’s domain.
Simba goes to see his uncle Scar. The scheming lion piques the cub’s curiosity by mentioning the elephant graveyard, where Simba is forbidden to go. Meanwhile, the lionesses go. Simba arrives and asks his best friend, a female cub named Nala, to come with him to the elephant graveyard. He lies to the lionesses about where they are going, and Sarafina (Nala’s mother) and Sarabi allow the cubs to go, escorted by Zazu. Simba and Nala formulate a plan and manage to lose Zazu, while Simba brags about his future position.
The cubs go to the graveyard and begin to explore. Zazu catches up, but they are confronted by three hyenas: Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. The hyenas intend to eat the trespassers and gloat about their find. Mufasa rescues the cubs and frightens off the hyenas.
Mufasa is disappointed and angry at Simba’s reckless disobedience, and explains the difference between bravery and bravado. Mufasa tells Simba about the great kings of the past and how they watch over everything from the stars. Mufasa says that he will always be there for his son. Later he discusses Simba’s behavior with Zazu, who reminds Mufasa that he had the same tendency to get into trouble at Simba’s age.
Back at the elephant graveyard, Scar tells the hyenas of his plan to kill Mufasa and Simba so that he can become king. He raises an army of hyenas, promising that they will never go hungry again if they support him. Scar takes Simba to a gorge and tells him to wait there. On Scar’s signal, the hyenas start a wildebeest stampede into the gorge. Scar tells Mufasa that Simba is trapped in the gorge. Mufasa leaps into the stampede and manages to save his son, but as he tries to escape, Scar throws him off the cliff back into the stampede, killing him. Scar convinces Simba that his father’s death was his fault and tells him to run away, but as he leaves, Scar orders the hyenas to kill him. Simba escapes but the hyenas tell Scar that he is dead. Rafiki and the lionesses mourn the deaths. Scar claims the throne and allows the hyenas into the Pride Lands. Rafiki returns to her tree and smears the drawing of Simba, while Sarabi and Nala quietly grieve.
Out in the desert, Simba collapses from heat exhaustion. Vultures begin to circle, but are scared away by Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog. Simba feels responsible for Mufasa’s death, but the duo take the cub to their jungle home and show him their carefree way of life and bug diet. Simba grows to adulthood in the jungle.
The chorus, dressed in colourful clothes with ornate bird puppets and kites, begin the Second Act. As the song ends, however, the beautiful birds are replaced by vultures and gazelle skeletons. Under Scar’s rule, the Circle of Life is out of balance and a drought has hit the Pride Lands. Zazu, now a prisoner of Scar, listens to the king’s woes. The hyenas are complaining about the lack of food, but Scar is only concerned with himself and why he is not loved. He is haunted by visions of Mufasa and rapidly switches between delusional confidence and paranoid despair. Nala arrives to confront Scar about the famine and Scar decides she will be his queen and give him cubs. Nala fiercely rebukes him and resolves to leave the Pride Lands to find help. Rafiki and the lionesses bless her for her journey.
Back in the jungle, Timon and Pumbaa want to sleep, but the restless Simba is unable to settle. Annoyed, Simba leaves them, but Timon and Pumbaa lose their courage and follow him. Simba leaps across a fast-moving river and challenges Timon to do the same. Timon falls in and is swept downstream. He grabs a branch over a waterfall and calls for Simba’s help, but Simba is paralysed by a flashback of Mufasa’s death. Timon falls from the branch and Simba snaps out of the flashback, rescuing his friend. Simba is ashamed that Timon nearly died because of his recklessness. The three friends settle to sleep and discuss the stars. Simba recalls Mufasa’s words, but his friends laugh at the notion of dead kings watching them. Simba leaves, expressing his loneliness and bitterly recalling Mufasa’s promise to be there for him. Rafiki hears the song on the wind, joyfully realises that Simba is alive, and draws a mane onto her painting of Simba.
In the jungle, Pumbaa is hunted and chased by a lioness. Simba confronts her and saves his friend, but recognises the lioness as Nala. She is amazed to find Simba alive, knowing that he is the rightful king. Timon and Pumbaa are confused, but Simba asks them to leave him and Nala alone. Timon realizes what is happening and laments the end of Simba’s Hakuna Matata lifestyle. Nala tells Simba about the devastated Pride Lands, but Simba still feels responsible for Mufasa’s death and refuses to return.
On his own, Simba meets Rafiki, who explains that his father lives on. Mufasa’s spirit appears in the sky and tells Simba he is the one true king and must take his place in the Circle of Life. Reawakened, Simba finds his courage and heads for home. Meanwhile, Nala wakes Timon and Pumbaa to ask where Simba is, and Rafiki appears to tell them all the news. The three of them catch up with him in the Pride Lands, where he witnesses the ruin of his home. Timon and Pumbaa distract some hyenas, allowing Simba and Nala to reach Pride Rock.
Scar calls for Sarabi and demands to know why the lionesses are not hunting. Sarabi stands up to him about the lack of anything to hunt, angrily comparing him to Mufasa, and Scar strikes his sister-in-law, saying he’s ten times the king Mufasa was. Enraged, Simba reveals himself. Scar forces a confession of murder from Simba and corners him. Believing that he has won, Scar taunts Simba by admitting that he killed Mufasa. Furious, Simba recovers and forces Scar to reveal the truth to the lionesses. Simba’s friends fight the hyenas while Simba battles Scar to the top of Pride Rock. Scar begs for his life, blaming the hyenas for everything. Simba lets him leave out of mercy, but Scar attacks again. Simba blocks the attack and Scar falls from the cliff. The hyenas, who heard Scar’s betrayal and are still starving, tear him to shreds.
With the battle won, Simba’s friends come forward and acknowledge Simba as the rightful king. Simba ascends Pride Rock and roars out across the kingdom. The Pride Lands recover and the animals gather in celebration as Rafiki presents Simba and Nala’s newborn cub, continuing the Circle of Life. I almost missed the new cub!!!
My favourite character was the sarcastic Zazu
What makes this show is the expense spent on costumes and set. The dancers have costumes that accentuate the features of their bodies to make them appear as animals. The puppet like figures that are in the shape of the animals controlled by the actors on stage contribute to the visual elements of the show. I had the chance to see the production from the first row of the balcony this summer. The characters and costumes along with the beautiful stage sets brought together the safari world. There is little choreography as in set sequences but the characters must move in the manner of that animal. From my seat, I could see their interaction between all the dancers and could make out the costumes which extended the dancers lines to make them have the appearance of real animals!
The music drives the performance and has the added appeal from the popularity of Elton John outwith this production. Music adds to the mood and storyline.
In contrast to the Brexit performance, the show was a perfect combination of art, entertainment and music. I felt it was is immensely enjoyable due to the characters, well known music and all the visual elements, including set designs and costumes. Unlike most other shows where costumes and stage sets are two separate categories, there is a blend in the stage set and the costumes in this show.
The Lion King brings all elements together with some comedy and consequently it is a great show to watch with children. I feel the stage show was more enjoyable than the cartoon as the animals are brought to life and interact with the audience. It is also a great show for children because it teaches the value of family and the importance of having parents in our lives which is of course no other than Walt Disney’s trait. The show stays loyal to this ethos and this adds to the suitability and inclusive nature which makes the production suitable for everyone. I would love to take the students from school to see lion king and then we could breakdown the movements as though we were in the safari itself.