‘The Lion King’ at The Orpheum is Spectacle For all Ages – Memphis, TN,USA

Going Places: The Lion King Show

Going Places: The Lion King Show

“The Lion King” is a feast for the eyes, ok on the ears and doesn’t really have a whole lot on the brain. And that’s perhaps expected and even appropriate for a family-oriented musical derived from a cartoon Disney blockbuster.

Announcing itself as “the world’s #1 musical,” this week marks the third Memphis arrival of a touring production of Broadway’s “The Lion King,” following runs in 2003 and 2007. The production might be old news to some, but for first-timers — including plenty of little Memphians not yet born in 2007 — the opening puppet procession is startling: Antelopes leaping, elephants loping, zebras galloping, birds stirring in the air, and, most memorable of all, four-limbed stilt-men giraffes pacing: Many entering from the back of the auditorium and all bounding onto and across the stage.

On Thursday night at the Orpheum, you could see restless theatergoers around the room, as young as 4 or 5, snap to rapt attention in response. And if “The Lion King” is a mind-bending spectacle for wee ones, it’s a nostalgia trip for millennials, for whom the 1994 animated film was a childhood touchstone and who could be spotted requesting date-night snapshots before settling into their seats.

For the rest of us, it’s just a good show, captivating but not transporting.

The circle of life story, the young lion exiled from the pack who returns to avenge and replace his father, is a simple and satisfying one. And the performances are engaging. But original director Julie Taymor’s gorgeous, inventive production design is the star of the show, and extends beyond breathtaking puppetry to use of light, shadow and texture. And the visual tones change effectively, as when the dominant look of whimsical realism gives way to colorful ragdoll daydream when young Simba and his pal Nala submit to their imaginations.

The not-so-sacred text is played with a little. A Beale Street joke is predictable, harmless pandering, but a playfully eye-rolling reference to the ubiquity of Disney’s next Broadway smash, “Frozen,” earned hearty laughs from a room full of parents more than ready to let it go.

Musically, the blend of African music from South African singer/composer Lebo M. and the Disney-style inspirational pop from Elton John and Tim Rice can be a rough match, and however familiar something like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” might be, there’s more life on stage when the production tips toward the joined voices and energizing polyrhythms of its African setting.

‘The Lion King’
Through March 1 at the Orpheum, 203 S. Main.
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays. There will be a special matinee performance at 2 p.m. Feb. 26 and no evening performance March 1.
Tickets: $34-$149.
Info: 901-529-4226 and orpheum-memphis.com.

Source:Chris Herrington|CommercialAppeal.com

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