The Lion King brings Pride Rock to Pittsburgh

Courtesy of TrustArts.org
The touring cast of The Lion King will wrap up their run in Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, when they will move on to Boston.

Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor

09/12/19

From the bright lights of Broadway to my hometown Shakespeare in the park, I assumed after a decade in the theater I had seen nearly everything the medium had to offer. To my utter delight, the national tour of The Lion King proved me wrong.

The opening scene evokes a magical sense of wonder and awe as the actors seamlessly blend puppetry, dance, song and traditional African tribalism. It is next to impossible to describe the sheer delight in the audience’s faces as massive, anthropomorphic safari animals parade through the aisles toward the stage as the iconic “Circle of Life” is sung in perfect harmony.

As a long-time fan of the Disney animated classic, my hopes were high for this production. Not only were my impossibly high standards met, but every expectation was easily exceeded.

While The Lion King is often revered for its remarkable musical score and matching composer pedigree (Elton John and Tim Rice), I found myself amazed by the talent of the ensemble. Naturally, one expects a high level of talent from all performers in a touring Broadway show, but this cast went well above and beyond the industry average.

The Lion King is possibly the most technically difficult show to grace a Broadway stage.

Each member of the ensemble demonstrated supreme mastery of a wide variety of dance styles, including African jazz, ballet, acrobatics, contemporary and many more. It takes dancers years of training to develop this range of style and strength. In addition to their magnificent physical abilities, each member of the ensemble also managed to show off their unique and impressive vocal range and unmatched use of puppetry.

Along with the mind-blowing talent of the ensemble, I deeply appreciated the artistry of the sets. While I anticipated massive and opulent sets of African grasslands and the depths of the jungle, they turned out to be surprisingly simple. This minimalism in set design was a brilliant choice.

By keeping the sets relatively plain, the audience could focus on the incredible costumes.

My focus was never drawn to Pride Rock, but to the intricate headdresses of Simba and the lionesses. Instead of covering the stage in leafy structures and hanging vines in the jungle scenes, the designers chose to place actors in gorgeous plant costumes. Their swaying motions brought the jungle to life, truly illustrating the interconnectivity of nature.

While I deeply admired the technical complexity of the show, there is something to be said about the uncommon beauty of this coming-of-age tale. The Lion King expertly blends the nostalgia of the Disney animated film with a new wave of life and creativity. It is both a retelling and reimagining of a timeless classic.

Ages young and old can take delight in the theatrical masterpiece The Lion King. The inclusion of wildly talented child actors allowed younger audience members to identify with the story and see themselves in Simba’s journey. The show magically captures the joy of youth while retaining the spirit of tradition, making this a production for the entire family.

Needless to say, The Lion King was spectacular. The touring Broadway production of The Lion King breathed new life into this beloved story, preserving the tale for generations to come.

 

Comments are closed.