A roaring success: The Lion King at Bristol Hippodrome

Maybe your granny took you when you were 10, it’s time to go again

The Lion King has arrived in Bristol for seven weeks and I was lucky enough to attend and witness the incredible feats of puppetry. I admit, when I first arrived I was slightly concerned it might be catered slightly towards children. The massive group of scouts outside and the adults leading their children around in fluffy lion ears did not give me much hope. However, either I am less fantastically mature than I thought or it was truly entertaining for all ages.

The costumes 

Credit @Deen Van Meer 

Costume designer, Julie Taymor, and mask and puppet designer, Michael Curry, are the true stars of the show. Incredibly beautiful and complex costumes donned the characters back’s throughout. Headdresses which arched down and mimicked the movement of a lions spine when the characters crouched were a wonder to behold, and flowing cloaks moved stunningly during the many dance numbers. The first scene of the performance is without doubt the strongest and goosebumps lined my arms for “Circle of Life”. Large puppets swarmed down the isles towards the stage delighting all those in their seats and birds swooped down, almost kissing audience member’s heads.

The music 

I have never heard a more beautiful voice than the one Zodwa Mrasi possesses. She plays Rafiki, the baboon, and her performance was captivating. The clearness and projection of her voice, truly delightful.

A painful and disappointing number called “Chow Down” was sung by the hyenas but a spine tingling rendition of “He Lives in You”, sung by Rafiki surrounded by glittering starlight, more than made up for it.

The original score from the animated film was expanded for the stage and now features 15 musical numbers. As well as writing completely new songs, South African composer Lebo M created an evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina. Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film.

Credit @Brinkoff and Mogenburg

Mufasa’s death

I am sorry if this is a spoiler to you but I must mention it. Portraying such a famous and heartbreaking moment must have been a very challenging task which was handled tastefully. I was concerned that it was going to look very tacky but a heard of wilder-beats literary hurtles towards the tiny figure of Simba and head on at the audience which had a successfully alarming effect.

The dramatic fall of Mufasa was complimented with flashing lights and a harness to slow the decent. What truly left my heart aching though was the group of lamenting female lioness that appear on stage to find the body. They pull long strings of crepe paper tears from their eye sockets which flutter in the breeze in an absolutely heart wrenching display of grief. This grotesquely beautiful performance will stick with me for a long while.

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