On Wednesday 23 July, Performing Arts students from Macquarie College travelled to the Capitol Theatre in Sydney to view a matinee performance of The Lion King. Director, Julie Taymor included some truly outstanding elements such as stage settings, costumes and music. Although the stage musical presented an accurate representation of Disney’s animation, some aspects that were included were weaker than others.
The production began with the celebration of Simba’s birth (Heir to the throne). Scar, the jealous Uncle of Simba did everything in his power to become king himself. In Act One, Scar tried to kill Simba but ended up killing Simba’s father (Mufasa) instead. Simba fled from Pride Rock and ran into Timon and Pumbaa who he ended up living with. Meanwhile, back at Pride Rock, Scar had claimed the position of King. With hyenas acting as servants, Pride Rock ran out of food and water and despite the complaints from other animals, Scar refused to change his ways. Nala (Simba’s best friend from when he was a child) left Pride Rock to try and find somewhere to source food from. In her travels, she ran into Timon, Pumbaa and Simba. Initially, not recognising each other, they began to fight. It isn’t too long before they realise their own company and reunite. Failing to convince Simba to return as King, Nala left and headed back to Pride Rock. Rafiki began persuading Simba to return, and under her influence, Simba went back to Pride Rock to reclaim his rightful position as King.
The storyline, despite adding extra scenes, flowed really well and was an accurate representation of the animation.
There were five main settings that were used repeatedly throughout the production. These included Pride Rock, Scar’s cave, The Elephant Graveyard, the Tree of Life, and Timon and Pumbaa’s home. All of these settings were very similar to how they were viewed in the film animation. By using the same settings in various scenes, it was easy for the audience to follow the plot with no confusion. Another setting that was used, but only once was the wildebeest scene. The different sized beasts worked very well in the sense that it really made the chasing sensation realistic. This was my favourite set design and it worked extremely well considering the complexity of the scene.
Set changes were smooth with no evident mistakes made. Between quite a few scenes, the stage size was decreased by lowering the curtain. This was a very effective way of changing the set behind the curtain.
Other aspects of the sets were the people who were dressed to feature as part of the surroundings. A particularly clever approach to this was done by having the cast with the skirts and the grass on their heads lifted up by the rising stage.
The continuous African theme was accentuated through the use of bright coloured, vibrant sets and was very effective in creating the intended, exciting atmosphere.
All the settings used were amazing and in my perspective, there were no weak aspects of this.
The music that was included in this stage musical was predominantly based around traditional rhythmic African style music. This was achieved by centering the focus of the music around the choral style vocals which were accompanied by a range of percussion instruments. It was clear that the audience thoroughly enjoyed this music and it was my favourite aspect of the play also. Amongst the African music were short bursts of western style rock music (featuring electric guitar solos) and one small snippet of orchestral music. I feel that these changes in music style were a weak aspect of the musical that didn’t flow well. It didn’t match the storyline or the atmosphere of the production.
‘The Circle of Life’ was the most outstanding piece in the play. It helped to establish where the musical was set by focusing on the African language, movements and harmonies.
I feel as though ‘Hakuna Matata’ wasn’t as dramatic as the audience expected. Because this is such a well known piece of music, I think they could have made it a really climatic point in the production.
There was one vocalist that stood out when it came to the African music. Buyi Zama stole the show with her jaw dropping performance in the role of Rafiki. It was a perfect casting of this role.
The orchestra, conducted by Richard Montgomery, was both well featured within the play and complementary towards the featured actors.
The costumes in The Lion King were, as expected, incredible! The use of puppetry was a creative way to portray animals. The use of colours worked really well in portraying the personalities of the character. For example, Scar (being the evil character) had dark features while Simba was with a cartoonistic feel which related back to the original animation.
Although the focus of the costumes was mainly based around the puppets, makeup and body art was used to compliment the character and the puppet. By using strong colours and accentuating the eyes, the audience could gain a clear visual understanding of the character’s personality and their facial expressions.
The costumes and makeup used reflected the African theme really well.
The actors that were casted to fill the roles of the characters in The Lion King, I believe, were chosen very well. Some performers that stood out in comparison to the others were Rafiki (Buyi Zama), Young Nala (Ayanda Dladla) as well as Timon (Jamie McGregor) and Pumbaa (Russell Dykstra). Despite having a number of understudies, all actors performed really well.
I would highly recommend this production to people of all ages who appreciate musical theatre. While it was entertaining for adults, it is still comedic and understandable for children.
This was a great production that that I would definitely go and see again!