Disney’s stage production of The Lion King has been winning over audiences for more than a decade. Now permanently playing at Mandalay Bay, The Lion King continues to impress crowds with its energetic, colorful performance featuring costumes, music and scenery that captivate people long after the curtain has dropped.
If you’re familiar with the film version of The Lion King, then the first question that may come to mind regarding the stage adaptation is how it is even possible. After all, it isn’t all that simple to get elephants and giraffes to calmly wander across the stage. How can a stampede possibly take place in a Las Vegas theater? In fact, this is a story filled with animals; how can a cast of humans pull it off?
This is where The Lion King is truly brilliant. Elaborate and colorful costumes depicting the animals that roam the African wilderness are worn by humans in such a skillful way that you almost forget that there are people hidden beneath them. A gigantic elephant costume requires that each leg is outfitted with a person while puppets, masks, make-up and head pieces help identify gazelles, hyenas, lions, zebras, rhinoceros, birds and other critters.
The costumes are impressive enough, but The Lion King is also a good example of how little is needed to convey so much. The Lion King’s stage has a few mechanical pieces, but overall there are few props. The creative use of shadow is utilized in the show, and even the grass is played by people. Dancers outfitted in traditional African costumes offer an added element to the stage production.
Many people are familiar with the film version of The Lion King, and if the story appealed to you on the big screen, you’ll be happy to know that the stage adaptation is nearly the same. A key difference is the addition of a few songs, all of which are masterfully played by a pit orchestra and two percussionists located off to the sides of the stage. “Circle of Life,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and “Hakuna Matata” are still a part of the show and performed with as much energy and gusto as in the movie.
For those who are unfamiliar with The Lion King, the show has a simple story (spoiler alert!): The lion king of the Pride Lands, Mufasa, is a kind and brave creature. His brother, Scar, wants to take over the territory, but Mufasa’s young and curious son, Simba, is next in line. With the help of mischievous hyenas, Scar hatches a plan to get rid of Mufasa by way of Simba. The young cub, who feels responsible for the accident that kills his father, leaves the Pride Lands and begins living with Timon, a meerkat, and Pumbaa, a warthog. Romance ensues when Simba’s childhood friend, Nala, sets out to find Simba in order to convince him to return home and reclaim his rightful place in the lion kingdom.
The Lion King is a high energy, fun show for families with children or anyone who appreciates stage shows that push the boundaries of costume, make-up and creativity. Many leave the theater humming the music, and many more are quick to recommend the show to friends. Millions have seen The Lion King, and there’s a very good reason why people continue to fill the seats of this highly acclaimed show.
Catch The Lion King Monday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The show is dark on Friday.
Photo credit: MGM International