The Lion King

the-lion-kingOh-oh-oh! We saw The Lion King at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage last night. It’s in town for six weeks (Sept. 2 – Oct. 11).

The ads toss out phrases like “visually stunning,” “technically astounding,” “spectacle,” “phenomenon,” and “landmark event in entertainment.” I’m not going to argue with them.

The concepts, direction, costumes, and puppets are pure genius, courtesy of Julie Taymor. (You know how people will ask what famous person you’d like to spend a day with? I pick Julie Taymor!) The performers are not only exceptional singers and dancers and actors, but they have mastered their costumes and puppets, too. The talent, the skill, and the obvious work they’ve done is impressive and inspiring.

I could–and would like to–talk (rave?) about the many clever bits of staging that make this show work live on stage, but I’ll limit myself to one just now: the way the actors work with their costumes, puppets, and props right there in front of us. The actors and puppets are one. No attempt is made to hide the actors. I found myself looking at the puppet and actor equally.

I especially liked the way Scar’s mask slid down over the actor’s face at times and perched above it at others. The cheetah! The cheetah puppet’s head was wired to the actor’s head. When the actor moved her head, the puppet’s head moved. Both actor and puppet were cheetah-like. The giraffes! The hyenas! Oh, the hyenas! There were different kinds of hyena costumes to enable different kinds of movement, and they all worked.

You know how in a magic show the viewers are not supposed to see the slight of hand or how the trick is done? Well, we’re supposed to see it here, and, frankly, it’s still magical.

The details are brilliant. And speaking of details, I noted that young Nala was especially smiley–when she sang, when she acted, when she was the focus, when she was in the background. Mind you, she didn’t smile at inappropriate times. When older Nala took over, I was surprised and delighted to note that she, too, was especially smiley. In fact, older Nala’s smile reminded me of young Nala’s smile. Did they plan that? I think they had to have. What are the chances that two actors are that naturally smiley? Given the attention to detail in the whole play, this bit of minutiae, whether planned or not, pleased me.

Dear Joseph. I still love you, your Dreamcoat, and your brothers, but I’m afraid you’ll need to make room at the top of my Personal Favorites list for The Lion King.

Anchorage and Girdwood friends, I enthusiastically recommend making plans to see this show. Same for everyone else who has the opportunity to see it. Many thanks to the Anchorage Concert Association for getting this show to Alaska. What a happy, memorable, and inspiring night!

So, naturally, I want to go back to the very beginning. How did The Lion King begin? Who first conceived and wrote the story that spawned the movie and the musical? According to Wikipedia (the most reliable source in the universe, no?), the credit both goes to and doesn’t go to Thomas Disch. It was originally written as a “work for hire,” which means that Disch was probably paid some sort of flat fee and the copyright was/is owned by whomever paid it–Disney, I’d guess. As a work-for-hire project, the author doesn’t usually get credit or royalties.

I wonder how much the movie script changed from the original story. And I wonder if Disch was well paid for his part.

Categories: Alaska

2 replies »

  1. Wasn’t it an awesome show? It actually brought me to tears. Joshua, Jessica, Bryson and I were blessed to see it on Broadway a few years ago.

    Talking about wonderful shows…you’ve got to see Wicked when the opportunity arises. It, too, is an incredible show and just might rank up there on your list (as it does mine). The plot is exceptionally clever.

  2. My niece loved Wicked, too. It’s definitely on my list of Will-See-When-I-Can shows. It’s touring, and in Seattle right now, but not coming to AK or any place I plan to be in the near future.