The (Lion) King of Broadway
The Lion King on Broadway is an aesthetic marvel. From the ensemble cast and their marvelous costumes, to the lighting and rotating set pieces, it’s certainly a sight for sore eyes. Thankfully, it isn’t only that but also a tale as old as-well, perhaps not time, but childhood at the very least. The Lion King is a movie people know well. To see Simba’s transformation from rebellious cub to carefree teenager to adult king onstage is heartwarming and exciting. Watching a man in green follow around the Timon puppet is equal parts disturbing and hilarious, and it’s the same for the warthog Pumba. Lighting adds to the general African mood- where in Africa is it set? No one seems to know, but it seems largely irrelevant to the actual plot. In fact, the baboon Rafiki uses several different African languages throughout the musical.
This is at its heart a musical about family, as we are reminded time and time again when Simba and various other characters are told of their ancestors, watching from the stars above. It therefore makes sense that families are who come to see it most often – but the appeal is broader than that. It is a coming-of-age tale that has something for everyone- from the PG rated love in “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to Simba’s mischief in “Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, no moment in the play feels forced. On the contrary, it’s almost shocking how much genuine emotion can be wrung from a story about lions. Mufasa’s death (spoilers for those strange few who haven’t seen the movie) is poignant and devastating, for the audience as well as his son. It’s believable when Simba agonizingly self-exiles and runs off to the jungle.
Disney is certainly taking over Broadway, but if it keeps producing musicals like this, it runs on the Google principle. Yes, there may be a monopoly, but we’re all winners here. Even kings.