Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh – until 18 April 2020
Reviewed by Hannah Plumb
Since announcing its return to the capital Edinburgh audience has awaited the arrival of The Lion King with much excitement. I am glad to say that the show lives up to that expectation. The 1997 West End showstopper feels just as alive today as when it first opened. There is always a fear with big brassy shows that they will lose some of their magic when taken out of their home theatre but this is not the case with this production.
Following the classic story of everyone’s favourite mischievous lion cub Simba as he journeys to follow his destiny and become King of the Pride Rock. A timeless tale of bravery, friendship, love and family.
From the moment the lights go down the colourful scenery, spectacular performers and breathtaking score transport the audience into the African Savannah. There are very few theatrical experiences that can match seeing “Circle of Life” performed live in front of you. No matter how ‘grown-up’ you think you are I defy anyone to not turn back into a little kid when the theatre floods with giraffes, antelope and rhinos. The puppets are beautiful and the puppeteers are phenomenal using their bodies to bring the animals alive. I particularly enjoyed the baby elephant. The entire cast on The Lion King is so impressive, whether it’s the spot-on movement which convinces you there is a herd of buffalo galloping towards you. Or the vocals that create the atmosphere of Pride Rock and belt out the well-loved score.
While all the performances in The Lion King are of an astonishingly high standard the physicality and vocal characterisation of Thandazile Soni’s Rafiki deserve a particular mention. From the word go her animated depiction of everyone’s favourite baboon tells the audience they are in for something special. Another standout performance was Jean-Luc Guizonne as Mufasa. His strong voice and powerful physicality made him a presence that captured your attention every time he was on stage.
The entire production is well balanced and provides moments tailored for both adults and children. Making this a really family-friendly show. It combines clever comedy and vibrant pictures which make it enjoyable for everyone. The live music, led by conductor Jonathan Gill is nothing short of spectacular. The combination of the orchestra and singers means this is a show that you could go to close your eyes and enjoy the music alone.
It’s no wonder that The Lion King has extended its stay in Edinburgh between the standing ovations and the roof-raising cheers I have no doubt that every audience member is going home and spreading the word that The Lion King is not to be missed.