The Lion King provides a fulfilling up-close adventure into a jungle, unlike anything you have ever seen before.
The behaviors of man vs. beast has been a hot topic lately due to recent events at the Cincinnati Zoo. Parents be aware and don’t let your children wander on to the Schuster Center stage to be amongst the collection of wild animals, some of which might really be real. One of the most interesting aspects of The Lion King is the thin line the cast draws between man and beast with their performances. Their majestic movements of a leopards stride, a lions cower, and a birds flight are so perfectly portrayed that it’s hard to tell if its humans or the real thing. The Lion King provides a fulfilling up-close adventure into a jungle, unlike anything you have ever seen before.
It doesn’t take long to realize you are in for something special as the parade of animals at the opening is a grand spectacle. Giraffes, zebras, and even an elephant walk right down the center aisles onto the stage. The only thing that could make the parade any better is if candy was thrown out. Seriously, the grace in which each performer moves is a sight to behold.
The story of The Lion King is also very human in nature as it centers on betrayal, jealousy and redemption. Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) is King, much to the chagrin of Scar (Patrick R. Brown), who is delightfully devilish in his plan to take over the throne (or the rock). Brown presents a type of villain in Scar that you enjoy rooting against, because he’s so good at being bad. His movements speak volumes, as with just the tilt of the head, Brown turns ferocious. Scar’s path to being King is complicated more by the birth of Simba (BJ Covington/Julian Rivera-Summerville). I’m sure both are equally talented, but whichever played the cub on June 8 was highly impressive. Simba provided both high energy and strong vocals, in becoming the most lovable creature of its species since the ‘Cowardly Lion.’ However, Simba has no shortage of courage, which lands him in a dangerous situation.
The same courageous heart is displayed by the older Simba (Aaron Nelson), who is forced to face the past he had run from. You can’t help but root for Simba to take his rightful position as King since Nelson makes him so likeable.
The show is stolen by the comedic duo of Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz) & Timon (Nick Cordileone). It’s near impossible to keep from smiling whenever they appear, even when Pumbaa drops a couple of stinkers (literally). Though a little flightly, Zazu (Drew Hirshfield) also delivers a stand-out performance. A colorful bird, with a sharp witted beak, Zazu delivers a number of one-liners, including a reference to Frozen. Each of the actors portraying Pumbaa, Timon, and Zazu not only master their character but also the required puppetry.
Despite some great songs in The Lion King, the music is hardly noticeable compared to the awe inspiring puppetry and magical happenings. Not a single vocal performance really stood out to me, but visual masterpieces abound throughout the performance. The costume, stage design, and creative teams hit every key in perfect harmony.
The Lion King proves to be not only king of the forest, but also as the King of theatre with a splendid performance that all ages can enjoy. The Lion King continues through July 3 and tickets are still available. Find more information here.