The Lion King still going strong

By Michael Kinney

In the 1994 film version of “The Lion King,” the most memorable scene is the death of Mufassa. As the young cub/son Simba cries over his father believing he caused his death, it had many movie goers to shedding a tear.

When I went to see the Broadway musical of “The Lion King” Thursday at the Oklahoma City Civic Center, I saw that director Julie Taymor tried to bring out the same emotions when the death scene played out on stage. And I knew it worked when I heard a group of women in the 60s, sitting behind me, sniffling.

The ultimate goal for Taymor each night is to take that same emotion and heart that viewers loved in the movie and bring it to the stage each night.

“When I looked at the film… I said to myself, what is working in tis film for me? What is the most daunting challenge,” Taymor said. “That’s what I like to do– the sheer fact it’d very hard to do is a great challenge to me.”

In 1997 the musical The Lion King burst onto the scene. It quickly became of the most popular and best received shows on Broadway.

The Lion King has now entered its 20th year and it shows no signs of slowing down. Presented by OKC Broadway, it has now made its way to the Oklahoma and is playing in front of packed houses. It is scheduled to play at the Oklahoma City Civic Center through May 28.

The show lasts more than 2 ½ hours with one 15 minute intermission. With 49 cast members and 134 people who work on the show daily, it is one of the biggest touring shows to come to Oklahoma City for this length of time.

With its large cast, extravagant use of colors and large scale puppets, the Lion King has a little bit for everyone. It is especially significant for those who grew up on the 1994 movie version.

However, because of its length, the Lion King does drag along at some points with the story. But what makes the show stand out, is even when there is a lull in the story line, the music, the puppetry, costumes and set designs are more than enough to keep audience members involved in the show.

“When the human spirit visibly animates an object, we experience a special, almost life giving connection,” said Lion King director Julie Taymor. “We become engaged by both the method of storytelling as well as the story itself.”

Special props go to actors who played Young Simba. The role alternates between Devin Graves and Jordan Williams.

Gerald Ramsey, who played Mufassa, was also extraordinary.

For those who know nothing about the Lion King story, it is easy to follow even on a Broadway stage. And for those who know the movie all to well, the musical expands on a story that is molded for young and old alike.

For tickets, got to OKCBROADWAY.com.

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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