Re-imagining one of Disney’s most successful film animations for the theatre was always likely to be a tall order, but as The Lion King took to the stage of Wales Millennium Centre the phrase “Hakuna Matata” (No Worries) certainly sprung to mind.
Recreating all the colourful Prideland landscapes of the film, the show also retains its larger than life characters and edge of the seat drama, while throwing in some startling choreography and new songs to sit neatly alongside those already scored by Elton John and Tim Rice.
The ensemble piece Pride Rock opens the show. As Jonathan Gill’s orchestra deliver the African beats of Circle of Life across the theatre, a carnival of colourful animals lead by the enigmatic mandrill Rafiki (played by Thulisile Thusi) take their place. Birds, lions, cheetahs, giraffes are all represented via ground-breaking costumes and a startling array of puppets.
The first half of the show faithfully retreads the film script and Scar’s plot to overthrow Mufasa as King of Pride Rock, while the second focuses on Simba’s attempt to reclaim the territory from his evil uncle. The second half also has the added extras of presenting musical solo spots and a further ensemble piece One by One
Stunning performances from Christopher Colquhoun as Scar, Cleveland Cathnott as Mufasa and Wales’ own Meilyr Sion as Zazu provide the backbone to the story, while the demanding and energetic roles of the young Simba and Nala are played to perfection by the talented Mitchell Jelley and Eve Midgley making way for Hope Maine and Melina M’Poy’s portrayals as the characters in adult-form during the second half. Dominic Brewer and Lee Ormsby are also on hand to inject some comic fun into the proceedings as Timon and Pumbaa.
A treat for all the family both visually and musically, Disney’s The Lion King runs At Wales Millennium Centre until Sunday 11 January 2015.
A version of this review by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on Friday November 14, 2014.
Andy Howells’ interview with Disney’s The Lion King Head of Puppets Will Pearce.
Review revised and archived: August 10, 2019