Evelyn @ 'The Lion King' - I almost cried

What’s it about?

Hamlet, but set on the African savanna. This musical is told through innovative puppetry, gorgeous musical harmonies and ballet-like dancing, and totally taps into your childhood nostalgia.

My experience.

To be honest, I was absolutely exhausted the day I went to see this. My brain was fried from reading so many academic journals with a ton of troubling historical facts. I honestly wished that I had been able to just go home and take a 48-hour nap, yet I weaved through the crowds of Times Square tourists (felt like a damn stampede, tbh) to 46th street and arrived at the Minskoff Theatre.

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Although I love musical theatre, I had never been to The Lion King. While I enjoyed the animated movie, I didn’t have a big desire to see the stage version. The show has always kinda just been there, and I knew tourists wouldn’t let it close anytime soon. But hey, might as well see it to say that I’ve been, right?

Going in, I didn’t expect a lot from this musical. It’s hard to adapt movies to the stage, especially a beloved cartoon. To be honest, this show has been hyped up so much by critics (and basically anyone who’s seen it) that I kind of expected to walk away from the theatre being mildly disappointed… BUT, as soon as that first note was sung I was instantly transported back to my childhood. It was kind of like that scene in Ratatouille, when Anton Ego takes a bite of Remy’s ratatouille and is instantly reminded of his mother's cooking. That’s the exact feeling I experienced, but instead of being reminded of a meal, I saw my younger self watching the opening scene of the animated film for the first time.

I remembered trying to belt out the opening line with a bunch of my friends without knowing the lyrics. All those emotions hit me at once as I watched ensemble members strut down the aisles belting their hearts out and damn, I almost cried.

Not only was the set just hella gorgeous, but a lot of the bigger props reminded me of opera sets: huge and extravagant — you just can’t stop staring, basically. The rice paper sun glistening at the start slowly rising above the stage’s horizon… that was insanely beautiful. The elephant graveyard’s cliff upon which Scar commanded his hyena minions? Holy shizzz.

I was close enough to the stage that I could see every small movement each puppet made. Zazu was definitely one of my favorites, especially since the puppet looks super intricate and crazy beautiful. However, while I did enjoy the show, there were some elements that completely took me out of the story. Like how the lionesses physically cried during one of the scenes. It honestly felt kind of cheesy and even made me laugh a little, even though it was supposed to be one of the saddest points in the story. But then again, that coulda just been me.

I would also like to note that there were so many beautiful and talented black artists on stage, and the fact that the audience itself was filled with way more people of color than I usually see at other Broadway shows. YAS! I know that The Lion King is a Disney creation and thus attracts a broad spectrum of people. But I would love to see more shows not only cast more people of color, but also attract a wider range of people with different backgrounds to come and watch. The stories would be much richer and more vibrant.

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