Reviewed by Katy Hart
Wow! Just wow! Last evening, we were privileged to be among the audience at the Bristol Hippodrome for what was the most incredible evening as we were transported to the majestic Serengeti Plains in Africa. As the curtain went up Rafiki, played by Thandazile Soni, welcomed us to the Pride Lands and we sat in awe as the animals of the Serengeti came to life all around the auditorium for the most spine-tingling performance of ‘Circle of Life’. It is a totally immersive production making you feel you are right in the heart of Africa. It is a theatrical performance like no other, and it is a truly spectacular stage production with the most beautiful story line to captivate you.
The Lion King was originally an animated musical film released by Walt Disney Pictures 25 years ago. It is said to have been influenced by the biblical stories of Joseph and Moses, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This musical production is based on the 1994 animated film with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice.
It is a story of Simba (Swahili for lion), a young lion cub, and it follows his life as he grows and experiences the richness of life in the Pride Lands. Simba’s father, Mufasa, is King of the Pride Lands, and Simba knows he will one day succeed him. As in most good stories there is a dark side to the storyline, and Mufasa’s wicked brother, Simba’s uncle Scar, wants to be King. He devises a plan which results in a stampede and the death of Mufasa. He convinces Simba that he is responsible for his Father’s death, and feeling devastated and ashamed, Simba flees and Scar returns to tell the Pride Lands that Simba also was killed. While Simba is in exile, he is befriended by the hilarious outcasts Timon and Pumba who try to get him to leave his past behind and live a life with no worries – Hakuna Matata. Scar meanwhile, takes his place as King, but his greed leads to the Pride Lands becoming a drought stricken barren place. The well-known storyline leads Simba back to the Pride Lands to take his rightful place as King, restoring peace and bringing them back to life.
This production has it all — a brilliant storyline, a musical score that thrills from beginning to end, the most incredible costumes and choreography, and the most lifelike, animals who completely make you believe they are real — so real that you do not even notice the people within them. We gasped in wonder as the grasslands and Savannah came to life. We laughed out loud with Timon and Puma as they tried reached out in friendship to Simba. We felt the beautiful emotion of Simba and Nala, his lifelong lioness friend as they reunite in the moving performance of ‘Can you feel the love tonight,’ and we were given moments to pause and reflect upon as we heard the wise words of Mufasa and Rafiki.
Scenes such as the stampede are executed to the most incredible detail so that they are absolutely believable and frightening, and the choreography throughout is simply spectacular. The musicians equally were superb, and with the beating African drums in the auditorium with us, the music also added to the experience of being completely immersed in the production.
There were so many outstanding performances — each cast members enthusiasm and passion shone through. I was especially moved by the beautiful vocal tones of Mufasa (Jean-Luc Guizonne) and had goosebumps every time Rafiki sang. The young Simba and Nala and their exuberant performance of ‘I just can’t wait to be King’ was amazing, and the impeccable timing and humour of Zazu (Matthew Forbes) simply brilliant.
I loved the whole performance and was completely immersed in the magic of this beautiful story. It was thoroughly deserving of the standing ovation it received as it lived up to every expectation and more.
Thank you to the Bristol Hippodrome for an outstanding evening, and as always their friendly welcome.
This is one show that you will not want to miss.
Duration: approximately 2 and a half hours including an interval. Suitable for children: The Lion King is recommended for a general audience. Disney recommends the Lion King for ages 6 and up.
Tickets cost from £20 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Disney’s The Lion King is at the Bristol Hippodrome from 7 September to 23 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/bristol or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012