When I first heard that the musical version of The Lion King was coming to Manchester, I knew I wanted to take the geekdaughter to see it. I love musical theatre and I’m a big fan of the Disney musical films, which I’ve been enjoying rediscovering with the kids. Since it opened on Broadway I have heard nothing but praise for the Lion King stage version, so I have always wanted to see it. And last half term I got my chance…
We went to a Wednesday matinee show, and I treated the geekdaughter to pizza for lunch beforehand. I hadn’t told her where we were going, although I had given her a few clues. By the time the day arrived she knew we were going to Manchester, it was something Disney, and it was something that she had a song from in her Disney songbook. Even with that information she still walked right past the theatre without noticing all the signs and guessing! As we ate our puddings in the restaurant I noticed they had a large cuddly Simba toy behind the bar, so told her there was a clue to find. After a nudge in the right direction she spotted Simba and then guessed we were going to see the Lion King. She was very excited.
I’d been quite late booking tickets and so hadn’t managed to get my usual favourite location (front of the circle) – instead we were in the stalls. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to see enough of the stage from there, but it ended up being the best possible location – much of the action happens around the audience and at times it really felt like we were right in the middle of the show! The seats were expensive but I was so glad that we went and really delighted with where we sat. If you’re going to see the show I would recommend getting seats in the front stalls.
The show was amazing. I love Disney’s attention to detail, and it was interesting to spot the number of costumes and puppets that only ever appeared once and briefly. It had a true feel of the film, with all the same story elements, but it felt longer, and richer. Extra music and songs were written just for the stage show, but all done with the same feeling of the original movie score. Two drum kits were placed in the boxes, high above the stage, which really helped you feel completely immersed in the music.
Then there were the puppets. Oh the puppets. Again, that Disney attention to detail showed here, with the seemless blending of puppet and actor, making you believe you were watching animals. In some cases the actors just had an animal headdress to show which animal they were, in other cases the puppets were more elaborate. Simba himself appeared in a number of different forms – as a shadow puppet, a stick puppet, and then portrayed by both child and adult actors. Pumbaa the Warthog is a huge puppet, completely encasing the actor portraying him, whereas Timon the Meerkat is smaller, but somehow you just ignore his actor, stood behind him clad in green. Such variety of tools and techniques but it all just works.
I can’t do this show justice with my writing. You really have to see it. Whilst The Lion King is not one of the geekdaughter’s favourite movies, and doesn’t seem like a natural choice for conversion to a musical, she loved it as much as I did, and has already told me how much she’d love to see it again. It made a really good treat for both of us.
I’m going to leave you with the video trailer for the show. It gives a bit of a feel of the experience, but really doesn’t do it justice. I could pause this video anywhere and point out all sorts of little details that you wouldn’t spot without having seen the show on stage. All I can say is if you get the chance to see the show on stage, take it with both hands!
This blog post is also available in enhanced audio format – you can listen in the player below, or, if it’s not visible, click on this link to listen on the Audioboo website.