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"Scott Irby-Ranniar's plucky cub Simba, Jason Raize's charming adolescent Simba and Tsidii Le Loka's wise female shaman Rafiki all give special satisfaction."
--Seattle Post-Intelligencer review of The Lion King

 





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<< Norfolk Virginian Pilot review of The Lion King

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA)
Broadway's Bright Lights - Disney's
"The Lion King" Roars to Success

by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Special to the Post-Intelligencer
December 1, 1997




The weeping and wailing should stop now.

For the past several years, the New York theater community has bemoaned the encroaching presence of entertainment behemoth Walt Disney Productions. Indeed, "Disneyfication'' has become code for any thematic attraction that pops up here.

While it's true Disney's retail and theatrical presence commands attention in Times Square - the corporation now anchors the corner of 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue - it is equally correct that its long-term commitment has helped rejuvenate the entire area.

But Broadway's disaffection for Disney took root when the company brought "Beauty and the Beast'' to live theater. Going its own way, the Mouse House refused to participate in union negotiations with the League of American Theatres and Producers and the company imported its own creative team to stage the show.

The result is a show that continues to operate, after nearly four years, at or above 70 percent of capacity on Broadway and also does well with its touring companies. Of course, the Broadway community shunned the show at its 1994 Tony Awards when only the costume designs were honored. But Disney's television commercial during the Tony broadcast helped ensure one of the largest single-day ticket sales in history on the morning following the awards show, although the company will not publicly confirm or deny the dollar amounts.

For now, though, the hatchet has been buried.

With the opening of "The Lion King'' at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Nov. 13, Disney has become a full-fledged member of the New York theater community. And it continues as the most successful. The company reportedly shattered all previous records when it sold $2.7 million worth of tickets on Nov. 14, the day the reviews were published.

Disney still makes its own deals and keeps its own counsel, but hiring Julie Taymor, an avant-garde theater artist and designer with impeccable credentials, to guide the production was a stroke of genius.

Stunningly beautiful in its design and execution, this tale of a young lion's coming of age seamlessly meshes the pleasing pop music of Elton John and Tim Rice with the lush, gorgeous African sounds of Lebo M. Reminiscent of the great Hugh Masekela, Lebo M's music is performed by a powerful multicultural cast that steals your breath and makes you feel your heart will burst with pleasure.

Taymor's use of elegantly ingenious puppetry - manipulated by gifted performers such as Geoff Hoyle, Max Casella and Tom Alan Robbins - obliterates the realistic theater as we know it and takes us to exotic new places. Every performance is a standout, but Samuel E. Wright's commanding Mufasa, John Vickery's deliciously evil Scar, Scott Irby-Ranniar's plucky cub Simba, Jason Raize's charming adolescent Simba and Tsidii Le Loka's wise female shaman Rafiki all give special satisfaction.

"The Lion King'' isn't perfect - a ballet during "Can You Feel the Love Tonight'' shifts the show into neutral for a few minutes. But if you're concerned about getting your money's worth at a Broadway show, remember Timon and Pumbaa's big song: "Hakuna Matata (No Worries).''

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