What do the critics think of The Lion King? We review the reviews.
After running for nearly two years in Sydney in 2003-2005, Disney’s blockbuster musical returns to the Capitol Theatre with a (mostly) brand new cast. This time, it sweeps into town having just become the highest-grossing Broadway show of all time. Based on the 1994 Disney film of the same name, the show features Academy Award-winning songs by Elton John and Tim Rice and spectacular puppetry and costumes. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you most of that already.
The Lion King, while not entirely convincing has, dare I say, good reason to harbour pride. READ OUR REVIEW
What the other critics say
Unsurprisingly, everybody acknowledges how incredible the opening of The Circle of Life is (everywhere the show has traveled to, even its firmest critics have praised the opening number). But some reviews have noted that this production is not quite as sharp as it might be, and that there are moments where the dialogue doesn’t have the right dramatic impetus driving it forward. Has Disney perhaps been a little lazy with this production? While critics have been unanimous in their praise for returning cast member Buyi Zama as Rafiki, some have had a few problems with Nick Afoa’s dramatic performance as Simba. Those few niggles aside, the reception has been very warm. Consensus rating: 8/10
“Some dialogue scenes need a rocket under them and in Act I children are required to carry more of the show than is reasonable to expect. But this was evident first time around and clearly the producers don’t intend to meddle too much with success. Overwhelmingly, the conception and design are king.” Deborah Jones, The Australian
“Because it was so artistically advanced when it was conceived, Julie Taymor’s human-powered, hand-made spectacular feels as fresh and vibrant as it did when it made its Australian debut in this theatre in 2003.” Jason Blake, Sydney Morning Herald
“Besides the tear-jerking triumph-over-adversity coming of age tale (pass the tissues please), the Academy Award-winning song/lyrics combo of Elton John and Tim Rice, and the evocative (also Oscar-winning) score by Hans Zimmer, the success of the stage show is its embrace of theatricality through the use of puppets and masks, a paper-cut craft aesthetic, and basic but ingenious visual solutions to problematic scenes such as the stampede, Simba’s ‘reflection’ epiphany and the drought-depleted water hole. Everything about this production encourages young and old minds alike to dream, make-believe and use their imaginations.” Dee Jefferson, Time Out Sydney
“The first five minutes of The Lion King are an experience of utter joy. The familiar opening call, in Zulu, breaks out into the theatre and from there we are transported into the pure magic of Julie Taymor’s stagecraft. Sophisticated puppetry, mask and costume design bring an entire pride land to life at the Capitol and it’s as exciting for those who saw it ten years ago at its Sydney premiere, I’d wager, as it was for those who were new to the show at its opening night last week.” Cassie Tongue, AussieTheatre
“If you’ve never seen The Lion King before, the artistry of many of the scenes on the plains of Africa will dazzle you, but those having a second bite might notice a few meows have crept in amidst the roars. Most in the opening night audience were expecting the carnival of animals to descend on the stage for the famous introductory number Circle of Life, but it was still a thrill to be amongst the throng of wild beasts.” David Spicer, Stagewhispers
“What’s more, they’re all just puppets – the giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, hyenas, zebras and leaping gazelles – but each has a distinctive puppetry crafted and costumed to each animal, and in all the manipulating actors are clearly visible. The joy is in simultaneously watching human and puppet, admiring how human wit and feeling translates into the spirit and form of another species.” Martin Portus, ArtsHub
“Ingeniously spectacular and unashamedly sentimental, The Lion King is the ultimate live theatre experience, provoking the full range an abundance of spine tingles, goose bumps, laughter and tears.” Simon Parris, TheatrePeople
A rough-around-the edges production of a great show.