'The Lion King' is a beautiful, timeless classic
Despite a generation of performances on Broadway and appearances in 98 cities in 16 countries, “The Lion King” still rules.
As it begins a three-week run at the Benedum Center, Downtown, as a nonsubscriber presentation of PNC Broadway Across America — Pittsburgh, the national touring production remains as fresh, lively and beautiful as a young gazelle leaping across the plains of Africa.
Its beginnings as a 1994 Walt Disney animated feature film make it tempting to think of it as a show for children. That's certainly justified.
Though its running time — 2 1⁄2 hours with one intermission — makes it a bit long for younger children, it's also a great way to introduce slightly older kids to the delights, possibilities and artistry of live theater.
It's gloriously attractive, moves quickly and offers humor that can be appreciated by kids and adults.
Though the story has some inescapably dark moments — a parent's death, a surprisingly scary stampede, perils involving Simba — they are neatly handled.
Mask and puppet designers Michael Curry and Julie Taymor, who also did the costumes, collaborated with scenic designer Richard Hudson, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy and hair and makeup designer Michael Ward to create a complete fantasy world.
The production tells the story of the young lion Simba's journey from reckless cub to responsible ruler while balancing the human and animal traits of all the characters with imaginative performances and representations. Its score and scenic elements also honor the story's African roots.
The coming of dawn on an African plain and the gathering of animals that opens the show set the tone for the entire evening with dignity and exquisite beauty.
While the touring production appears to have streamlined some of the scenery, the production continues to create lushly appointed settings — a jungle with extravagant foliage, the revolving Pride Rock and an eerie elephant graveyard.
Choreographer Garth Fagan supplies myriad modern dance numbers. Adults will enjoy them for their artistry while pacing and visual interest keep younger audience members connected.
Adult lead characters turn in polished performances and carry much of the burden for the show's humor.
Most notable is Patrick R. Brown's acerbic villain Scar, a malcontent second son whose plot to become ruler by eliminating his brother and his nephew drives the drama. He relishes every moment of his diabolic conspiracy with delicious Richard III-like wit.
L. Steven Taylor plays Mufasa, the lion pride's well-respected ruler and Simba's stern but affectionate father.
Ben Lipitz's Pumbaa and Nick Cordileone's Timon handle most of the good-natured physical and kid-pleasing humor.
Brown Lindiwe Mkhize's shaman Rafiki is exotic and appealing, and Andrew Gorell mines the humor and humanity of Zazu, Mufasa's dithering but dignified steward and assistant.
A huge ensemble of singers, dancers and puppeteers keeps the show visually interesting; they inject reality and personality into the multiple characters — plants as well as animals — that enliven this musical.
Despite the years and the miles, it's a show that brings the same delight to audiences as it did at its Broadway opening.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
- Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
- Inside the Steelers: QB Jones continues to get majority of snaps
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- Gameday: Pirates at Reds, Aug. 2, 2015
- Former Steeler Mendenhall relishes writing for HBO’s ‘Ballers’
- Architecture: Visionaries saw buildings but not the political surroundings
- East Liberty native steps off Broadway to bring ‘Kinky Boots’ home
- Road Trip! Destination: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Western Pa. prosecutors zero in on human trafficking; legislation pending
- Pittsburgh Glass Center exhibits new wares that reinterpret antiquities