Mirvish presents the return of Disney’s hit Broadway musical The Lion King to Toronto
Making its triumphant return to Toronto at the Princess of Wales stage is the Disney musical The Lion King. Just like the animated film, the stage production directed by Julie Taymor features the same iconic songs by Elton John and Tim Rice along with all the characters we’ve all grown up with. This production is a true spectacle; a feast for the senses. Whether you grew up with the film or you’re introducing the stage show to a new generation, you will fall in love again the moment Rafiki sings “Nants Ingonyama”.
Just like the animated film, The Lion King follows the rivalry between King Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) and his brother Scar (Spencer Plachy) to rule over the jungle which comes to a head with the birth of Mufasa’s son Simba (Jared Dixon).
For my date Vance and I, going to see The Lion King is less about the story for us and more so the chance to see the spectacle of a stage show. I wanted to see, first hand, the craftsmanship of the costuming and the puppets and the mechanisms used to bring all these animals to life. I wanted to revel in the performances and marvel in the sheer athleticism required for this show — I did get to do exactly that.
Taymor who also designed the costumes and Michael Curry who helped design the masks and puppets did a phenomenal job. We both absolutely adored the beauty of the costumes. It’s hard to find a favorite – Mufasa and Scar’s costumes, in particular the lion heads and their ability to bow down as the actors leaned forward, were gorgeous along with the lionesses in their billowing costumes.
I loved the giraffe and the use of stilts at the hands and feet for height, the sleekness of the cougar. and the galloping gazelles. The design for the hyenas, especially with how the actors were able to animate the heads – stunning.
The costuming and puppetry paired with the beautiful lighting by Donald Holder brought the song “He Lives in You” to life in a way that is simply jaw-dropping. The song is a stand out from the musical’s soundtrack and the visuals in this scene made it even better.
We were also blown away by the performances. For this opening night performance, the role of Rafiki was played by Mukelisiwe Goba who was simply remarkable to watch. She gave so much energy and life to the role. Ramsey and Plachy were equally outstanding as Mufasa and Scar and their singing voices were superb.
Dixon is a joy to watch as Simba, his athleticism in the role is incredible and his chemistry with Nia Holloway as adult Nala is great. Greg Jackson is hilarious as Zazu and the one character who is able to blur the fourth wall — the actor points out that he’s carrying a puppet and even threw a nod to the Raptors’ recent triumph.
There are a few aspects of the show that we did feel didn’t work as well as it could have. Vance found the hyenas didn’t enunciate enough and in particular during the song “Chow Down” it was rather hard to make out the words.
We both found the costume choices for Timon and Pumba seemed plucked directly from the movie. While the other costumes blended the actors and the animals they portrayed near seamlessly, with the animal heads like headdresses and the rest of the costumes akin to African tribal motifs, Timon in particular was not styled similarly at all and looked very much like a puppeteer working a full size Timon puppet. I wouldn’t have an issue with this as much but Robbie Swift who played Timon was dressed entirely in green. With certain scenes where Timon is played against a grassy backdrop, the actor blended in but in other scenes, he greatly stood out. To me, it felt like watching Timon as powered by The Grinch.
That aside, The Lion King is a beautiful performance that needs to be seen. The magic of the stage is alive and well here and worth experiencing with your family and friends.
- The Lion King is playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King St W) until August 4 2019.
- Performances run Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 pm with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Sunday performances at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm. See website for details.
- Tickets range from $59 to $200, group pricing available for parties of 10 or more.
- Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone by calling 1-800-461-3333 or by visiting the box office in person. Tickets are selling fast, and online purchasing is preferred.
- Run Time: Two hours 30 minutes with intermission.
- Audience Advisory: This performance uses strobe lighting and is recommended for ages 6 and up.
Photo of Gerald Ramsey by Matthew Murphy.