“The Lion King” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ October 28, 2013


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage, Arizona State Uuniversity
Tempe, AZ

Is there any stage musical more spectacular, more melodic, more fascinating to watch, or more unique than Disney’s grandly scaled and brilliantly created “The Lion King”?  If there is, I haven’t seen it.  It’s back for the third time at ASU Gammage and it looks marvelous, the latest cast is top notch, and the show remains a dazzling entertainment for those lucky enough to have tickets.  But unlike past engagements, this “The Lion King” run still has some seats available during the last two weeks.

The simple tale, crafted exquisitely by talented director and designer Julie Taymor, tells about a lion’s family and its relationships with other jungle animals.  It is framed in a succession of stunning stage pictures created by elaborate sets that create the African savanna and complex costumes that turn actors into believable talking animals.

It focuses on Mufasa, the lion king, and his rapport with other animals and people.  When Mufasa is killed, the animals wrestle for control because his young son, Simba, isn’t mature enough to take control.  As he grows, Simba develops the power and élan to lead and, by the musical’s predictable end, these animals have a new leader.  Surrounding Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi’s book are Elton John and Tim Rice’s tuneful songs that most of the opening night audience seemed to already know.

What makes “The Lion King” so extraordinary is Taymor’s creative and endlessly clever stage direction that makes the story fascinating to watch.  The impeccable stage pictures are ever changing as the huge cast rambles in and out of the action making it ingratiating to watch.  And the simple tale tells a timeless life lesson about the way to live and react to those around us.

Disney knows “The Lion King” is a mega money making property so they keep the production pristine and local audiences are unlikely to see another stage show this spectacular.

There isn’t a weak spot anywhere and even the awful ASU Gammage acoustics made every word understandable because of the remarkable sound system brought by “The Lion King” company.  The show moved as artfully and briskly as it does on Broadway.

“The Lion King” is guaranteed to dazzle and amaze anyone who hasn’t seen it.  “The Lion King” continues at ASU Gammage to November 17.  For tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-6678 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A