Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Arsht Center: The Lion King (2 reviews)

The national tour of Disney's The Lion King opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on May 15, 2012.
Experience the phenomenon of Disney's THE LION KING. Marvel at the breathtaking spectacle of animals brought to life by award-winning director Julie Taymor, whose visual images for this show you'll remember forever. Thrill to the pulsating rhythms of the African Pride Lands and an unforgettable score including Elton John and Tim Rice's Oscar®-winning song "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and "Circle of Life."
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The animals come forth in a stately, stunning parade, their chants and rich choral blend giving way to The Circle of Life, the song that thematically underscores the power of Disney’s The Lion King. This impressive, impactful expression of director Julie Taymor’s artistry is not just a show for children, though its familiar story, extraordinary puppetry and colorful characters keep even the littlest ones mesmerized. No, The Lion King rules because it is a wondrous musical allegory that speaks to everyone.
At Thursday’s official opening night performance, the cast still seemed to be finding its way in its newest home, as a zebra bumped into Rafiki (the playfully commanding Buyi Zama), the stage sometimes looked chaotically crowded and the sound mix in certain spots muddied lyrics. Did the enraptured crowd care? Not a bit.
...the meerkat Timon, a life-sized puppet operated by the clearly visible and very funny Nick Cordileone...
...treachery intervenes in the form of a wildebeest stampede orchestrated by Mufasa’s envious, devious brother Scar (the deliciously villainous J. Anthony Crane), and little Simba must literally run for his life. Scar’s ruinous reign plays out over many years until the restless grown-up Simba (Jelani Remy) is found by his childhood friend Nala (a radiant, cat-like Syndee Winters) and summoned to reclaim his destiny.
The show’s key characters, including Simba’s mother Sarabi (Tryphena Wade), the cute young Nala (Kailah McFadden and Sade Phillip-Demorcy alternate), Mufasa’s chatty adviser Zazu (Mark David Kaplan), Timon’s odiferous warthog pal Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz) and the sneaky hyena trio of Shenzi (Rashada Dawan), Banzai (Keith Bennett) and Ed (Robbie Swift), are augmented by a versatile, impressive ensemble, actor-dancers who play everything from swaying grass to hunting lionesses to a lethal cheetah (Sharron Williams).
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
As spectacles go, it's, well, spectacular. It's The Lion King, of course... And judging by the roars of approval from the packed house at the Arsht Center the other night it's going to be doing very well during its Miami run.
This extraordinary musical opens with the animals parading down the aisles to the music of Elton John and Tim Rice's lyrics and just gets more oohy and aahy as the show progresses.
Things that stayed with me after the show: the living sea of grass, the wildebeest stampede, the very professional acting of the two young children, the music, the dancing, the singing and the sense of the African veldt and its inhabitants. The wonder of it all on that stage at the Arsht Center. 

And one more thing that really stuck: Granny's bloomers being blasted right off her skinny shanks by the incredible loudness of it all. Of the dozen or so songs and chants, I could understand not one word of those in English. “Excess volume distorts.” Is that a trade secret purposely withheld from the sound men who travel with these road shows?
The Lion King plays at the Arsht Center through June 10, 2012.

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