Sunday 18 September 2022

The Lion King at Mayflower Theatre

(complimentary press tickets for the purpose of review - see disclaimer)

After what feels like an eternity of waiting due to the pandemic, The Lion King has arrived at Mayflower Theatre ready for a roaring run in the city. From 8th September - 15th October, The Lion King will be gracing the stage, set against the majestic Serengeti Plains and to the evocative rhythms of Africa, Disney's multi-award-winning musical is a unique theatrical experience that you will remember forever.

Brilliantly reimagined by acclaimed director Julie Taymor, Disney's beloved animated film has been transformed into a spectacular stage production with the powerful story of Simba and his epic adventure to his destined role as King of the Pridelands at its heart. 

It was my first time witnessing the show and it's one I certainly won't be forgetting in a hurry - I already want to see it again, it was just phenomenal. 

Colour, movement and innovation are at the heart of the musical's success, and the opening sequence truly showed that as the packed theatre came alive with song and colour. I felt as though I'd been transported to the heart of Africa as each animal rushed past me while Circle of Life bellowed out across the audience. 

The set design captivated me from the start with its warmth and vibrancy making it stand out knowingly as a theatrical production rather than just a copy of the film so many of us remember and love. It always intrigues me to witness a well-known film or show come to life in its own unique way on stage. 

One aspect that has been retained beautifully is of course the music by Elton John and Tim Rice - as notes of He Lives In You and audience favourite, Hakuna Matata played out across the theatre there was a fizz of excitement. The entire cast had voices I won't be forgetting in a hurry but for me, Nosipho Nkonqa who plays Rafiki was utterly spectacular. Her incredible vocal performance, both resonant and humorous, brought to life so many aspects of the show - her performance will stay with me for many years to come. 

As well as Nkonqa, Matthew Forbes played a wonderful Zazu - I can't imagine the skill it takes to guide a puppet, talk, sing and perform all at once. Jean-Luc Guizonne an amazing Mufasa, he IS Mufasa for us - unbelievable. Josiah Remi Araba-Coker & Serenna Raphaella Hunte as a young Simba & Nala blew us away, such wonderful talent followed by Stephenson Arden-Sodje as Simba & Nokwanda Khuzwayo as Nala. 

With so many moving parts, it's no surprise that The Lion King has one of the largest casts - approximately 150 total, with 50 on stage and 100 backstage making sure everything goes without a hitch. Not only that but there are twenty-five species of animals featured including birds, fish and insects. Throughout the show, the animals are pulled together using a range of puppets, there are 232 in total including rod, shadow and full-sized puppets. It's absolutely incredible to witness especially knowing it took 37,000 hours to build the original puppets and masks.

I couldn't take my eyes off the lions, Mufasa and Scar - their costumes and puppets were so intricately done, I wish I could've got even closer. Wouldn't the dream be a set tour?

What else can be said that hasn't been said before about this spectacular and world-famous production of The Lion King? Now into its 25th year, and with no sign of losing its power, this unique and amazing show leaves the audience mesmerised and for me, The Lion King was truly spectacular. 

I wish I could get more tickets but they're now very, very limited (understandably) - I'll be waiting to see this on its next tour.

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