Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Most Memorable Theatre Experiences: #10 The Lion King

Okay so I was a little behind the eight ball on this show. I didn't see it until 2009, about 10 years after it opened on Broadway. For some reason I never got around to it, but when I lived in Manhattan last summer, I made it my goal to see every musical on Broadway. The Lion King was the last show I saw that summer, the night before I moved to be exact. And I must say it was the perfect end to an amazing summer of theatre. Now I should probably preface this by saying, "I am a cryer". I cry a lot in the theatre, and that is often how I measure how good a show is. Now I was not expecting to cry in The Lion King, a show that I thought was for children. From the moment Rafiki sang the opening syllables, tears streamed out of my eyes. Sure its cheesy, but the harmonies in the opening song, Circle of Life, just moved me deeply. The other number that was particularly touching for me was, He Lives In You, Simba's coming of age moment. This was another song sung by the magnificent character of Rafiki, and when she was joined by an African choir on the reprise, I was again moved to tears. I was somewhat familiar with the use of puppets and masks before seeing the show and I was completely expecting a work of over-the-top Disney-tastic spectacle. But what I actually experienced was a work of theatrical stagecraft that was not at all like something out of a theme park, but rather art. Helmed by the ingenious Julie Taymor, this piece brings our favorite animated characters to life in front of our very eyes. We see the human actors and we also see the animal masks and puppets, which seems like sensory overload, but in actuality, it does not matter if we look at a face or a mask. It isn't about what we see, but what we feel, and that is the spirit of the actor living inside the character.

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