HomeThe Theatre SphereThe Lion King (Musical)

The Lion King (Musical)


As a child of the 90’s, I grew up and fell in love with Disney’s 1994 animated feature film The Lion King, and still consider it to be their finest musical to date. After more than fifteen years of its worldwide tour, the stage adaptation has finally arrived in Brisbane at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre. Presenting the vision of director Julie Taymore, this two and a half hour long performance remains incredibly faithful to the original work. With a mixture of near-perfect acting, memorable songs and countless visual stimulants; this musical manages to breathe new life into the Disney classic.

The Lion King’s classic storyline remains largely unaltered in this adaptation, with the addition of exclusive songs and events only building upon the plot. This coming-of-age story once again tells the tale of a young lion cub named Simba (Nick Afoa), who is set to take over from his father, Mufasa (Rob Collins), as King of Pride Rock. Dissatisfied at losing his right to be king, Simba’s uncle Scar (Josh Quong Tart) enacts a plan to take advantage of the boy’s curiosity and naivety to ultimately kill the two of them and usurp the throne.

As the theatre lights dimmed and the curtain rose, viewers were immediately treated to a rendition of ‘The Circle of Life’ that left Elton John’s original performance sounding clinical. Performed with strong vocals by Rafiki’s actress Buyi Zama, the song packed a powerful emotional punch that rendered my companion in tears. This is where you will also receive a taste of just how high the production value of this musical is, as the stage is left teeming with human and mechanically controlled animals much like the movie. Having the good fortunate to be seated next to an aisle, my companion and I were also treated to an up-close look at the animals that strolled past us mere inches from where we were seated.

All original songs make an appearance and were masterfully replicated by each actor. From Tart’s high-intensity performance of ‘Be Prepared’ coupled with the ensemble cast dressed as Hyenas to the performance of ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’ which sees Young Simba and Nala (In my session performed by Queenslanders Exodus Lale and Tahlia Pardede) enthusiastically performing whilst dancing amongst the creatures that join them.

But it wasn’t only the classics that deserve recognition, with many musical-exclusive songs worthy of praise. These songs are more heavily linked to the African setting of The Lion King with heavy drumming and chants, in contrast to Rice and John’s contribution of upbeat pop songs, adding more maturity and sophistication to the experience. The most notable of these songs is ‘They Live in You’, performed on two separate occasions by Rob Collins and Buyi Zama, representing the “Great Kings of the Past” scenes from the film. Composed by Lebo M, this song holds its own against the award winning songs, complemented by star-filled backdrops and other impactful visual effects on both occasions. Other songs are on occasion used to fill in gaps left by scenes that were cut from the original movie. This is most apparent with the songs ‘The Madness of King Scar’ and ‘Shadowland’, two darker songs which provide further insight on Scar and Nala after the time jump instead of exclusively focusing on Simba. Everything is flawlessly conducted by Richard Montgomery, immersing viewers in the experience with a deep and powerful score.

Throughout the entire production, I found myself distracted from the tunes by a curiosity of how the musical came together. Julie Taymor and her team deserve every accolade received for providing many unique elements which added an additional layer of depth and immersion. Most notable are the costumes, which often consisted of elaborate African attire inspired by the character alongside masks and on-stage puppeteering. The costuming felt authentic, giving the impression that even though you were seeing the cast walk around on two feet, that they were in fact the animals they were portraying. Other props and approaches such as shadow puppetry, the creative use of lighting to realistically represent the African Savannah, minimalistic yet effective stage props and animal machinations all helped contribute to replicating and even surpassing the “Disney Magic” onstage.

With a level of sophistication that will appeal to adults alongside all the elements that made The Lion King a must-watch for children, this is a lively and imaginative musical adaptation filled with memorable moments and intricate attention to detail. The steep ticket price may be a deterrent for some, but in return is one of the few musicals that nobody should walk away from disappointed.

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

Recent Posts