Remember Your Pride
The Lion King
Review by Ross Anthony

The Lion King stampedes into the majestic Pantages Theatre with gorgeously surreal safari animals The Lion Kingmigrating across this makeshift Serengeti. Puppeted, operated or otherwise brought to life by live actors who are half the animal themselves, the wild comes alive as a sort of sculptured human art form - truly beautiful in concept, design and execution. (I was impressed .. and I've been on Safari in Africa).

Each animal has its own unique method of movement: The lioness has two parallel wires attached to either side of her head extending to each side of the actor's head; mimicking looks to either side. Eerie and elegant. At times, a bicycle built for gazelles rolls across the stage as the graceful animals appear to leap in tandem with watchlike precision over the plains. The giraffes require four stilts, while Rafiki (which means friend in Swahili) brings to life a baboon simply with modest makeup and careful movement by actress Fushia who also belts out some fantastic Africanesque scat.

Speaking of music, LION KING is at its best when the ensemble comes together with African rhythms and choruses that reach to the turquoise-lit ceiling, hypnotizing by way of repetitive utterances. Placed on either side wall, two extravagant sets of percussion instruments to accentuate the tunes.

Solo vocalizations, however, are mixed. Rafiki, Mufasa, older Simba all entertain with sweet singing voices; in fact older Nala sent this crowd into a clapping frenzy. Unfortunately, these account for only half of the solo songs, the other half are surprisingly and disappointingly weak for a production of this magnitude.

Similar hits and misses can be found in acting prowesses. Timon's (Danny Rutigliano) absolutely commands the stage with his humor, character voice (reminiscent of Nathan Lane, only better), and ability to manipulate his rodent with charm and agility. He makes an excellent rat. Scar is strong, and older Simba Charming; but Mufasa (despite his awesome singing voice) struggles to exude strength and younger Simba, sympathy. A few missed marks that rob the production of first act drama.

It's difficult to imagine a reader of this review who hasn't seen the animated feature film of the same name. If you haven't - goodness, rent it - it's fantastic, and not just for the kids - for you. That said, I won't comment on the story, only that the tale is strong.

Two thumbs way way up (or should I say hooves?) for the art direction and set design. I've already praised the costuming and puppetry, but the backdrops with their paper-torn clouds, waving grass, and lush green jungle amply invoke the rich skies and landscape of the wild. Simply ominous, a scene where Simba looks at his reflection in the pond and sees the image of Mufasa. The little dots on jungle leaves will bring rise to corresponding goose bumps all over your appendages.

Cutting to the chase, LION KING the stage play, strongly entertains with its majestic visuals, ensemble music and dance, while sporting drama (at least in this performance) better appreciated by a younger crowd.

(Incidentally, the cameoing (twice) infant lion looks like a paper sculpture or wooden lion-doll. Unimpressive. A human infant in typical Halloween cat costume would have melted the audience, while an actual live cub would have stolen our hearts.)

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  • The Lion King. Copyright © 2001.
  • Starring (on 8/23/01: the Pantages Theater, LA) Victor Talmadge (Scar), BK Kennelly (Zazu), Rufus Bonds, JR. (Mufasa), Jordan Calloway (Young Simba), Kandace Royster (Young Nala), Clifton Oliver (Simba), Moe Daniels (Nala), Fuschia (Rafiki) and Danny Rutigliano (Timon).
  • Directed by Julie Taymor.
  • Adapted from the screenplay by Irene Mecchi & Jonathan Roberts & Linda Woolverton.
  • Music and Lyrics by Elton John & Tim Rice.
  • Produced by Ken Denison, Pam Young at Disney.


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Copyright © 1998-2016 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at HollywoodReportCard.com, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: www.RossAnthony.com or call 1-800-767-7186. Check out his other sites too: Author*Illustrator*Speaker, Motobookothon 2009, M9, Write Triangle, TwT. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.


Last Modified: Thursday, 21-Oct-2010 15:45:16 PDT