MUSIC OWL AWARD: 5th – for family occasions
When I went: Summer 2007, July 2017
Location: Lyceum Theatre, London
1st visit: Brian Temba (Simba), Lloyd Notice (Mufasa), James Simmons (Scar), Nick Mercer (Timon), Keith Bookman (Pumbaa), Brown Lindiwe Mkhize (Rafiki), Eric Mallett (Zazu), Alexia Khadime (Nala)
2nd visit: George Asprey (Scar), Brian James Leys (understudying Mufasa), Brown Lindiwe Mkhize (Rafiki), Gary Jordan (Zazu), Richard Frame (Timon), Keith Bookman (Pumbaa), Nick Afoa (Simba), Janique Charles (Nala), Dominique Planter (Shenzi), David Blake (Banzai), Mark McGee (Ed), Lahaina Asumag (Young Nala), Hugo Max Woodhouse (Young Simba)
Creative team: Elton John (music), Tim Rice (lyrics), Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi (book based on Disney animated film), Julie Taymor (director and additional lyrics), Garth Fagan (choreographer), additional music and lyrics by others including Hans Zimmer
Approximate price: £30 (1st visit), £130 (2nd visit)
Special points: Animal interaction with audience, scenery
Best bit: He Lives In You
If I could change one thing: Better actor as young Simba
The Lion King, based on Hamlet, was a successful 1994 Disney film starring Jeremy Irons as Scar and Whoopi Goldberg as one of the hyenas.The stage show has become one of the best-loved and most long-running shows both in Broadway and the West End, and Elton John’s score has plenty of high points including Circle of Life, I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Hakuna Matata and Be Prepared.
This is one of the best shows for families and young children, with animals running into the audience and plenty of heartwarming moments.
1st visit: Alexia Khadime sang beautifully as Nala (I later saw her sing even better as Nabalungi in The Book of Mormon. Brown Lindiwe Mkhize was also especially powerful as Rafiki. The only weak link was the actor playing young Simba, whose voice wasn’t as strong as his impressive gymnastics.
I really enjoyed the parts where the animals ran throughout the audience and the Lyceum, having hosted this show for many years, is certainly well-tailored to every scene change and bit of blocking.
2nd visit: The only actors who were doing the same part on my second visit were Brown Lindiwe Mkhize, as regal and funny as ever as Rafiki, and Keith Bookman as Pumbaa. Brian James Leys understudied the role of Mufasa and brought a lot of gravitas to his performance. I also really enjoyed the athletic Nick Afoa as Simba, but again I thought that Young Simba wasn’t as strong vocally as, for instance, the child actors in Matilda.
There were some changes to the show in general – the Morning Report song (sung by Zazu) has been deleted and there were some meta references to Let It Go from Frozen, which the audience seemed to enjoy.
He Lives In You was one of the best parts, with strong harmonies ringing out against the beautiful scenery – I think this song is a little underrated against the more famous numbers. Although there are some pantomime-y elements to this show, especially with little exploration of why Scar is as evil as he is, this show manages to have more touches of magic and fewer OTT sparkles than Aladdin.
I upgraded this show to 4 hoots after my second viewing and would highly recommend it, especially for family groups. The scenery is gorgeous, there are lots of great touches in the animal choreography, and there are enough strong songs to keep the plot moving.