‘The Lion King' is a roaring success

2008-10-02 08:05

The Lion King exploded on to the stage last week in the R130 million new Teatro theatre at Montecasino Tsogo Sun. Presented by Lebo M and Pieter Toerien in association with Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher, it is an explosive feel-good experience.

With music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice and additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer, The Lion King celebrates its 10th anniversary as a stage production on Broadway this year.

Julie Taymor is an incomparable visionary who directs the show and is also responsible for the costumes, which are simply magnificent in their concept, design and execution. Working closely with Michael Curry on mask and puppet design, Taymor has used the essence of puppetry and shadow play to an impressive degree. In a particularly brilliant sequence, Nala chases Pumbaa through the long grass across the expansive plains, while the stampede of the wildebeest was an impressive theatrical experience.

Garth Fagan's choreography accurately recreates the movements of the animals, while Richard Hudson's scenic design is clear cut and simple, skilfully using moving imagery rather than static sets. Donald Holder's lighting is impressive, the highlight of the show being the build-up to the appearance of the massive mask of Mufasa. Steve Canyon Kennedy's sound design is perfectly placed and samples of Michael Ward's stunning hair and make-up design could surely fill the Tatham Art Gallery.

The cast is out of the top drawer with Sello Maake-kaNcube and Mark Rayment heading the line-up as the two brothers, the evil Scar and the regal Mufasa. Durban-born Buyisile (Buyi) Zama is a wonderfully forthright Rafiki, a role she performed in Australia. Among the many other KwaZulu-Natal connections in the cast is Andile Gumbi who takes the major role of adult Simba.

Memorable performances come from Lyall Ramsden as a loquacious Zazu as well as Peter Mashigo and Pierre van Heerden as the delicious comedy duo, meerkat Timon and warthog Pumbaa. The three evil hyenas Shenzi, Ed and Banzai are scene stealers, played by Candida Mosoma, Michael Bagg and former Durbanite Simon Gwala.

Some of the support characters did not match the general high standard but I'll put this down to the pressure of such a prestigious opening night. This also couldn't have been helped by the news filtering backstage that the audience was stuck outside in what was a completely inexcusable hour-long hold-up in ticket allocation.

• The Lion King runs until September 9 but the run will be extended if demand warrants it. Tickets range from R150 to R425 with shows Tuesday to Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 1.30 pm and 6.30 pm. From July 17, the Sunday 6.30 pm performance will fall away. For group bookings contact 011 511 1988 or e-mail geraldine@montetheatre.co.za

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