`LION KING' STILL RULES THE STAGE.
Look out over that ocean of faces, Simba. One day soon, all of these subjects, and many more that you can't see, will all bow and do you honor.
Oh, all right. That time is now. ``The Lion King'' has reopened at the Pantages Theatre.
It's the Disney musical circle of life, dear cub, and here's how it works. A handful of the thousands of people who came to see ``The Lion King'' when it first opened at the Pantages in 2000 figure to return now that it's back. Meanwhile, their children will grow up and buy tickets, by which time the ``King'' will have returned again. And again.
Given how long ``The Lion King'' has been growling its way around the world (including nine years on Broadway), the spectacle of this musical is easily taken for granted. Those sets (by Richard Hudson), those costumes and masks (Julie Taymor's), indeed director Taymor's entire vision ... the show was, despite its animated movie pedigree, entirely original.
In many ways, it still is unique, in a reassuring, ``Yeah, we know exactly what's coming but WHOA! Look at that!'' kind of way. And, really, bringing a ``Lion King'' ``newbie'' should be compulsory.
The Pantages splendidly housed the first national tour for three years, and there's no Southland venue where all that color and pageantry could gleam so magnificently. Once a viewer has been ``King''-ed more than once, he can even look past some of the more obvious visuals and drink in the details.
The shadow puppets, for example, and the means by which Taymor fuses those puppets with human actors. A handheld lioness puppet chases a warthog figure off stage before the two actors playing the characters (in this case, Ta'Rea Campbell as Nala and Phil Fiorini as Pumbaa) re-emerge.
Or dig Garth Fagan's movement and choreography, and the dazzling way he and Taymor have re-created the wildebeest stampede that claims the life of original Lion King Mufasa (Geno Segers). Which, as we know, paves the way
for young Simba to experience horrible guilt before eventually...
Oh, are we perhaps revealing too much plot here? Like any venerable Disney story, ``The Lion King'' is all about a heroic youngster with something to prove on his way to self- actualization. Along the way, he encounters colorful characters and overcomes various obstacles -- including a nasty villain. That ``The Lion King'' also employs some basic plot elements of Shakespeare's ``Hamlet'' can't be entirely accidental. Disney and, in this case, book writers Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, steal from the best.
I've maintained in the past that the musical excitement of this show comes less from Elton John and Tim Rice's contributions and more from the African arrangements and additional songs by Mark Mancina, Lebo M and Hans Zimmer. Hands down, a number like Nala's mournful ``Shadowland,'' Simba's ``Endless Night'' or ``They Live in You'' top the bubble gum of ``Hakuna Matata'' and ``I Just Can't Wait to Be King.''
That said, musical theater -- including Disney -- has yet to top ``The Lion King's'' opening five minutes, during which every beast of the Pridelands parades down the aisles and winds up on stage. For visuals, Simba, Scar and the beasts continue to reign supreme.
Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651
THE LION KING - Three and one half stars
Where: Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday; through Jan. 7.
Tickets: $15 to $87. (213) 365-3500
In a nutshell: Exactly as you remember it.
Young Simba has much to learn before he can rule in ``The Lion King.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 23, 2006|
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