North American Touring Casts Wows Audiences
By Ashley Kurtz
Filled with all of the magic, nostalgia and dad jokes one could want, “The Lion King” musical is a treat for young and old alike. All aglow with beautiful costumes and African beats — this show translates beautifully onto the stage.
Playing on Broadway since 1997, “The Lion King” musical takes the story from screen to stage, adding new songs (such as my favorite, “He Lives in You”) and scenes but keeping the core that audiences know and love.
Both children and adults play Simba and Nala in the show, and the children, BJ Covington and Meilani Cisneros, respectively, are exceptionally talented. They make the show fun, bringing the humor from the film and making it even more enjoyable on stage.
Dashaun Young portrays Adult Simba as he makes his way from the jungle and back to his homeland to confront his fate and take his rightful place on the throne. Young brings a soulfulness to the show that hadn’t been in the film, a heart-wrenching search for his real place in the world after the tragic death of his father. In Young’s expert hands, Simba is the questionable, frightened and sometimes even brave adult he’s supposed to be.
Nala, played by Nia Holloway, has a bigger, more three-dimensional part than the film version, getting both a solo and a minor subplot.
Drew Hirshfield steals the show with his version Zazu. Hirshfield makes it easy to forget that it is not the puppet cracking jokes and making pop culture references.
While the story is mostly the same as the film version, a few things have been added to enhance and lengthen the tale. An ill-fated attempt by Timon (Nick Cordileone) to jump over a river gives the audience an opportunity to see the trauma Simba still faces from his father’s death, and the marriage plot with Scar (Mark Campbell) and Nala creates a better understanding into Scar’s lonely life.
Musically, this show is nothing like most Broadway productions. It uses the voices of the cast for much of the background music, accompanied by African drums and a small orchestra for a multilayered sound. The addition of creative costuming, expert puppeteering and simply beautiful sets makes a truly unique theater experience.
The Lion King runs through Oct. 30 at UNM’s Popejoy Hall. For more information, visit popejoypresents.com.
Ashley Kurtz is a freelance theater writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.