The Lyceum Theater is jam packed to the point that there is a hint of the oppressive African landscape that Conrad describes in Heart of Darkness. The Dark Continent, they say! The setting of the best animated film 90s era Disney produced. Tonight’s menu is THE LION KING. Simba! Mau and I have wonderful seats in the royal circle. Heh heh heh. As someone once told me art is priceless, and of course when’s the next time I’m coming to London to watch the theater? Et cetera et cetera, other justifications of the price.

I can’t wait for the start… A circle of life indeed! I remember watching the movie in the omni-max in Jurong East. My first ever movie, if I remember correctly.

Oh my oh my oh my this is next-level stuff. The animal/human layering is outstanding. You know you’re supposed to see animals but you know it’s actors but the actors are simply incredible at moving like animals so there’s this double meaning to every movement. And the opening sequence circle of life was just the best thing ever I nearly teared. Incredibly done and well crafted extremely intelligent use of props which double as both symbol and physical representation. Superb sets and costumes!!!!! It’s colour and light and joy in performance. The set is just amazing it creates depth on the stage on a whole new scale like the wildebeest stampede sequence. Then the physical sense of expanded space and the size of the savannah is just mad… Technically wondrous. The set is just glorious I love the props and the very tribal-esque sort of feel that the costumes have. Then there’s some sneaky breaking of the fourth wall and a hint or two of self-referentiality that lends more than a bit of amusement but also displays sharp awareness of the musical’s own status as a performance, a mimicry of another genre. Which of course is a fact that the musical sets out to remind the audience of: that it is a reproduction of the film, unrepentantly so. It doesn’t set out to create a new aesthetic for the narrative, but instead sticks very closely to it. Yet the differences which might seem subtle are actually pretty stark and as a result mark the musical as it’s own representation of the narrative. Oh! Great engagement with the idea of a single narrative as told through different forms… Very agile storytelling here. Oh my!

Something very hard for the musical to do is to live up to the incredible colour and sound show that the screen can display. The sheer riot of colour that you can do on the screen (especially the physically impossible, dreamscape stuff that happens in all epic disney song sequences) can’t be done on the stage due to physical constraints. But they’ve done a great job of pushing the limits! Giant giraffes and elephants. I am absolutely entranced by the way they are ‘being’ the various animals.

Stupendous finish to the show as the circle of life comes full circle. Rafiki is great jester/wise man, fulfilling very much the classic role of the Fool… And has a great singing voice. Hyena costume design is a work of art. Got that floaty post-theater feeling again…

It is a phenomenally exuberant production, full of colour and light,very smart use of it too, something like Hero (the movie), but not to that super stylized level. But the musical certainly understands the effect that if can potentially have on it’s audience and exploits that to the fullest through all the sense-avenues available, to out eternal excitement and gratitude. The makeup on Scar – wow! Small details make big things good.


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