The story is identical to the film, a young cub named Simba is forced to run away from the pride lands after his father Mufasa was murdered by his wicked Uncle Scar. Years later, he’ll return to fight back against Scar and reclaim the pride lands.
The visuals are absolutely stunning for starters and I believe you couldn’t go for any better with the plays setting! Every member of the cast has something that expresses their
character, from Scar’s dark and skeletal cloak, to the jester face paint for Zazu.
Everything is acted and rarely is anything in the environment a puppet, even the grass is done by actors. It is able to bring life to every moment of the play, but there are things that hinder that spark of life from the visual design.
Acting is surprisingly poor sometimes, especially with line delivery. I couldn’t stop cringing at the failed deliveries of George Asprey’s Scar, and how every moment with him is ruined because of it, including Mufasa’s death scene. Scar sounds very off, like he sounds a bit more heroic than threatening.
And in my opinion, Cub Simba and Cub Nala lacked conviction too. Now I know they are child actors and maybe don’t have much experience, but Matilda the Musical was very well acted and that had most of its cast be children! So at the end of the day, that’s not really an argument supporting the play’s bad acting, especially considering it’s Disney of all companies. Though I did think Zazu, Timone and Pumbaa were well acted.
Humor wise, it’s pretty hit-and-miss, sometimes it makes some self-aware fourth-wall breaking humor work, but other times it ruins any timelessness the play could’ve had. I just love Zazu and Timone for most of the humor that works.
Song wise, maybe I could say that some were good, and others were very boring to sit through. One of them sounded muffled and I couldn’t get a single word out of what they were meant to be saying. I suppose it’s because I don’t like some of the music from the original so maybe that’s just me.
I felt that the popular scenes weren’t used to their full potential either. Mufasa’s death in the play, while still better than the “live-action” movie, doesn’t even come close to the original.
Overall, the Lion King play had so many great ideas from the visual design replicating the cartoon-y personality of the film, with some really atmospheric lighting and music that accompanies it. However that all falls flat due to mediocre directing, breaking the immersion this play could’ve given. Spend your £35.50 or more on something more worthwhile, like the 90s movie itself.
3.5/5 stars or 7 out of 10