Disney’s “The Lion King.” Even if you’ve never watched the 1994 animated film, you have at least heard the name and the legacy it carries.
One of those legacies is its Broadway adaptation, which opened in Columbus this week at the Ohio Theatre. I had the opportunity to see the play that has been critically acclaimed for year, with my own eyes, and it’s crystal clear why the show has gotten the accolades it has received.
The musical does an excellent job of recreating the most visually captivating scenes of the movie, including the “Circle of Life” opening, Simba’s birth, “Be Prepared,” and the wildebeest run. What made the show so exciting was the appearance of the “animals” in the audience during the larger musical numbers that gave the opportunity to get a closer look at the stunning costumes and set pieces.
On stage, the lighting crew did an excellent job of creating a colorful atmosphere that reflected what was happening during each scene. Reds and oranges abounded for the sunny and active musical numbers, while blues and blacks cued the audience that it was night. At Pride Rock, the lights shined a warm gold, and greens let us know that we were entering the jungle.
Not only did the play look amazing, but it sounded amazing. The orchestration boomed across the theater and the music made you feel as if you had stepped right into the movie. The drummers also added a rich rhythm that was crucial to certain scenes.
The actors on stage did an incredible job of portraying their respective roles. The interactions between Mufasa and young Simba are as heartwarming and endearing as a father-son relationship can be.
Something I must highlight is Mufasa’s (portrayed by L. Steven Taylor) soulful rendition of “He Lives in You.” It was one of the few moments in the show that tears fell from my eyes.
Young Simba and young Nala are also very fun to watch, especially during “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.”
What I appreciated about the musical was the addition of several scenes involving Nala, a hunt with Queen Sarabi and the other lionesses, a dismal encounter with Scar and a song by Sarabi that won’t be found in the movie.
A lot more character development is found in the show for Nala and Scar, but the same can’t be said about Queen Sarabi, portrayed by Tryphena Wade, who has very few lines in both acts and minimal interaction with Mufasa and Simba. Just like in the movie, the queen remains a mystery.
Rafiki, Timon and Pumbaa are, not surprisingly, the funniest characters on stage. The actors do an amazing job of recreating these characters that many people adore. However, what might surprise first-time viewers of the musical is the hilarity from Zazu. Even though he’s still the stern little bird that won’t let Simba have any fun, the lines he delivers are very witty and adds humor to almost every scene he is in. In a certain scene with Scar, Zazu breaks out into a song from another famous Disney movie, but I will leave you to guess which song it was.
With riveting performances and the music and props to back it, “The Lion King” is an emotional ride with beautiful dance sequences and an amazing cast. It’s cathartic and nostalgic for fans of the movie and a compelling story for those who might not be familiar with the movie.
If you don’t plan on visiting New York anytime soon, take advantage and see Broadway in Columbus.
“The Lion King” runs through Nov. 9 at the Ohio Theatre. Ticket prices range from $28 to $135 plus fees at ticketmaster.com.