Disney’s The Lion King, critically acclaimed and celebrated the world over, brings the wild African plains to Edinburgh. Taking up residency in the Playhouse, the production marks the first Scottish stop in the tour’s history. The Lion King brings the magic, spectacle and experience of record-breaking performances from both London and New York in the largest theatre production to ever tour Europe.
Based on the 1994 hit animation movie of the same name, The Lion King reunited many of the original movie production staff to adapt the production for the stage. The Lion King follows the story of the young lion cub Simba, struggling to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and his destiny to be King. The original score featuring songs from Elton John and Time Rice, ‘Circle of Life’, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’; along with three new songs by John and Rice are featured with additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer.
The sound of The Lion King is a true fusion of popular western musical styling and the distinctive sounds of Africa. With this, expect to be amazed with the well made, life like puppetry that accompanies the cast, transporting the African plains animals to the Edinburgh stage.
The international company composed of 52 performers from 18 different countries has begun performances in front of packed audiences in advance of its official opening on Tuesday October 22nd. Having spent four years in development prior to this, The Lion King will play a four-month run in Edinburgh as part of a ten city, two and a half year tour. The magic and spectacle of the original productions is promised through this massive feat, 23 trucks have been utilised to transport the massive sets of Pride Rock along with the 232 puppets that include rod, shadow and full-sized puppets. The stage was purposefully rebuilt to accommodate these vast sets and their visual ease in transitions in order to evoke the iconic landmarks that provide the backdrop to the African plains.
When asked about the show, two of the principle cast; Nicholas Nkuna (Simba) and Ava Brennan (Nala) show their passion towards The Lion King. Nkuna comments of the massive success of the show, attributing it to the story’s ability to transcend ages and touch everyone. Brennan attributes not only the story, but also the level of detail and authenticity of the production, especially around the African roots. They both list ‘He Lives in You’ as being a personal favorite moment echoing the stories ability to relate to us all. Brennan talks about how this particular song evokes emotions that remind her of her own son and his relationship with his father. The cast’s commitment to keeping the show fresh is apparent simply through their acknowledgement that while they may be into a vast tour, they keep in mind that each and every night is someone’s first time to see the show and as such they treat each night as a premiere night.
Disney’s The Lion King runs from October 11th until January 18th 2014 stating that good seats are still available. Be sure to visit the accompanying exhibition, ‘Exploring the Lion King’ in the City Art Centre, Market Street.
Words and photos by Mark McCulloch for westendwilma.com