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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 The Lion King

📍 Lyceum Theatre, 21 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7RQ

🗓 Saturday 17th September 2022



After running at London's Lyceum Theatre for almost 23 years, this weekend I finally went to see the visual masterpiece that is The Lion King.

When you enter the auditorium there are animal noises playing, so the illusion of transporting oneself is already beginning.

From the moment Thenjiwe Nofemele as Rafiki enters the stage and cries Nants' Ingonyama, you know you're about to witness something special. Nofemele is incredible throughout the production and every time she appears you know that you are going to be blown away by her performance, whether that be singing or acting.

As Circle of Life begins, the stage is filled with all the creatures of the Serengeti, which are brought wondrously to life by fantastic costumes and phenomenal puppets. The entire auditorium becomes the plains and there are animals in the boxes and a life sized elephant comes marching majestically down the aisle! The opening actually made me feel a bit emotional as I watched in wonderment at what had been created on the stage.

This show is a real spectacle and is undoubtedly the most expensive production in the West End! The magic is created with 232 puppets, 50 actors and a team of 100 people backstage. The work that goes into putting something like this on the stage mind blowing, but the results are out of this world.

For the most part, the musical follows the same story as the 1994 animated Disney movie on which it is based. There are a few differences and there's a comical moment when Gary Jordan as Zazu exclaims "That didn't happen in the cartoon!". Jordan is obviously an accomplished comedy performer and he is a joy to watch in the role.

What everyone wants from Disney is a good villain and George Asprey didn't disappoint as the evil Scar. He was fantastically evil and I love it when there is audible booing during a curtain call, as there was for Asprey, as it means he had done his job wonderfully.

The child actors in this are the best that I have seen. The roles of Young Simba and Young Nala are shared by four actors and I'm not 100% sure who was performing when I saw the show so I cannot name them, but they were energetic throughout and were completely believable in their roles. They had great singing voices and had a lot to do in Act 1, but they never broke focus.

You couldn't fault any of the performances throughout. Everything was clear and extremely professional. Other notable performances came from Shaun Escoffery as Mufasa, Yeukayi Ushe as Simba and Janique Charles as Nala.

The biggest laughs came from Jamie McGregor and Mark Roper as Timon and Pumbaa. The comedy timing between them is so on point that you'd think they had been working as a duo all their lives. They closed Act 1 with the crowd pleasing Hakuna Matata to huge applause.

Meloné M'Kenzy, David Blake and Phil Adèle were the hyenas and were brilliantly convincing as he pack.

It is the visuals that really make this show. I've already mentioned the costumes and the puppets, but when teamed with incredible set and lighting designs, it's easy to see why this show has run for so long.

The only weakness for me was the story itself. I do think it gets away with not having the strongest storyline though because of all the other aspects. Also, aside from the big well known musical numbers, a lot of the songs seemed quite subdued and were all quite similar.

The thing that ruined the experience totally for me was the dire theatre etiquette from my fellow patrons. Everyone around me was constantly talking and I struggled to hear the dialogue on stage at times. There was a constant rustling of sweet wrappers and other noises too.

I wouldn't normally mention something like this is a review, but I believe that this is an ongoing problem at the Lyceum because not only do they make an announcement about not talking before the show commences but it's also mentioned in the programme.

Maybe it's because there are a lot of young children there (the mother and young girl next to me spoke constantly throughout) but something surely can be done. It makes me not want to return to watch this musical again live because of it. It was honestly my worst theatre experience ever.

The Lion King is currently booking until June 2023. I was sat right up the top in the Grand Circle. The tickets were a lot cheaper being so high up but I still had a great view. Just beware, there are a lot of stairs to get up there!

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.


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