The Lion King, the Broadway show based on the animated Disney film, is back in town at the Orpheum through Feb 12. And according to even the crankiest local critics, the musical is still worth checking out.
J. Anthony Crane as Scar and Dionne Randolph as Mufasa in The Lion King. Photo by Joan Marcus
As you may know, The Lion King started its life here in Minneapolis, 15 years ago, in a pre-Broadway tryout. It has become, like all great shows, an institution. Now it’s back, fully mature and imminently[sic] seeable.
By now one might expect “Lion King,” now in its fourth Twin Cities engagement, to show signs of road-weariness. Yet from biggest to its tiniest moments — from its opening parade of human-and-puppet fauna in a “Circle of Life” through the reprise of the spiritual and reverential “He Lives in You” at the end — the must-see show remains fresh and inviting.
The Lion King runs through Feb 12 at the Orpheum in Minneapolis.
Photo by Joan Marcus
There is nothing to worry about. The talented cast of the touring company delivers everything you’d hope for from the show – earnest energy, strong vocal talent, and acrobatics that would’ve been impressive even without the elaborate costuming. Elton John and Tim Rice’s music feels comfortably familiar without being tired or worn-out, and the songs written for the musical – which audiences familiar with the movie may not have heard before – add moments of emotional gravitas to what is otherwise a plot-driven show.
Concede that an 89-minute cartoon has been blown up into a stage musical that stretches to a periodically draggy 2-1/2 hours that is not necessarily appropriate for very young children (like the wee one opening night who lost it when the house lights dimmed). Acknowledge that “The Lion King” on stage is an ambitious and rigorous piece of theater that requires more audience investment than the film.
Do all of that and you’re likely to find that “The Lion King” – which premiered at Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre in 1997 before becoming a Broadway smash – still does pretty well in the face of passing time and trends.
Have you seen The Lion King? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.