By Michael Karlo Lim
THAT same Zulu chant opens the stage show as it does on the now classic Walt Disney animated feature. Here two stylized animorphic tribesmen are echoed by an offstage chorus. Ingeniously devised reverse Roman blinds make a glowing sun rising on the horizon upstage. Two actors on stilts cross the savannah sunrise with giraffe silhouettes while a full-bodied cheetah puppet stretches downstage.
With the swell of the music comes a steady procession of more and more animal characters: elephants, antelope, rhinos, and birds — imaginatively recreated and interpreted in fantastic realism as tribal costumes and puppets — to faithfully play out that iconic opening onstage precisely as it unfolds in the movie.
The ten-minute long opening sequence promises more in the acts that follow. Wave after wave of thrills and delights, there is just nothing like the visual tapestry of Julie Taymor’s staging of Disney’s The Lion King.
It only improves on 1994 animation to transform it into an emotionally charged stage show that leaves mouths agape in amazement. My favorite and one most definitely to look forward to is how they play out the integral stampede scene with scenery, puppetry and costumed cast members to all but leap off the stage and into the audience. Of course, there are all-too-familiar songs from The Lion King animated film. These are supplemented by three new songs by Elton John and Tim Rice’s; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer, resulting in a fusion of Western pop music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa. Nostalgia and fresh excitement are stirred up by the spectacle, the artistry, and the score.
The Manila season has been extended by an additional two weeks. New seats have just been released and are now available for purchase through TicketWorld (www.ticketworld.com). THE LION KING is presented by Michael Cassel Group and Concertus Manila in association with Disney Theatrical Productions and will now run from 18 March to 6 May 2018 at The Theatre at Solaire, Manila. For further information about THE LION KING, visit TheLionKing.ph.