The Lion King – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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The Lion King – Review

Bradford Alhambra Theatre, March 2014

by Mathew Gillings

The Lion King musical has been running in the UK since 1999. Millions of people have been treated to some truly fantastic performances over its lifespan. The incredible following that the show has managed to attract over the past fourteen years is astounding. Everyone seems to have something positive to say about it, and everyone seems to be aware of its immense success story.

lion-king-alhambra Tonight’s performance lives up to this very high standard. It was an absolute pleasure welcoming the cast to Yorkshire. For me, The Lion King’s two main selling points are its incredible musical direction, and its costuming. Elton John and Tim Rice are responsible for the fantastic musical numbers, with Musical Director Jonathan Gill taking the helm.

The ensemble is brilliant. With incredibly strong voices filling the domed roof. A couple of actors were a little weak, yet special mentions must go to Kwesi Jeffers (Mufasa) and Nicholas Nkuna (Simba) for outstanding performances. Both men have a strong presence on stage which is congruent with the characters and compliments their respectful roles.

“Cute dancing elephant”

The costumes are simply unbelievable in this musical. It’s quite an honour to be able to see them in action. The way in which the actors move like animals is fascinating to watch. It’s such unique puppetry that I’m yet to see bettered by anyone else. The actors make use of the whole theatre. they scatter themselves throughout the stalls and dress circle, and parade through in true Disney style. As we are leaving the theatre, everyone seems to be talking about the elephant. Words can’t describe just how cute this dancing baby elephant is.

lion-king-bradfordInterestingly, the script is edited slightly. It now includes rather localised and colloquial references throughout. Meilyr Sion (Zazu), for example, makes a reference to Glasgow which seems to go down incredibly well with the audience. Whilst I consider it a little cheesy, and perhaps like something you’d expect from a pantomime, I think it works quite well in small doses. Off-the-cuff references to the UK and DIY-SOS do seem a little odd when the story is set on the African savannah. But then, one could argue, talking animals is just a little bit far-fetched too. It’s personal preference and, for me, it works.

“Immerse yourselves”

As I left the theatre, I couldn’t help but feel rather humble. The story’s emphasis on nature, the circle of life, and the immense feeling that you’re part of a much wider natural process is fascinating. I thought back to my childhood: I used to wonder why my parents weren’t upset when we saw lions eating zebras on television. At that young age, I couldn’t get my head around the notion. But stories such as The Lion King help to put things into perspective. It’s just what happens. We’re all just one connection in a loop that never ends.

When Simba assumes his rightful position on Pride Rock alongside Nala, and the new lion cub is born, it’s clear to see that you’ve been through one heck of a journey. For just under three hours, the whole family can sit back and immerse themselves in the phenomenal array of music, colour, light, and talent. The Lion King musical is what theatre is all about. It’s magical, majestic and a whole lot of fun. Hakuna Matata.

Pictures courtesy of Disney

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