The Lion King
Music & lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancini, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymore and Hans Zimmer, book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi
Disney Theatrical Group
The monster Disney hit The Lion King has made its triumphant north east debut at the Sunderland Empire, where it's settling in for a seven-week run. This global phenomenon had played cities and tours around the world and has been running in London since 1999.
Turning the smash hit cartoon into a live action stage show is a monster undertaking and uses special effects, stunning sets and knock-out costumes to achieve its aim. From the opening number when the animals parade through the stalls, you are captivated.
Julie Taymor, who is responsible for costume design and directing, makes you forget there are actors on stage as you watch gazelles, elephants, birds, hyenas and a number of other animals appear on stage. Their designs are such that you look past the actors and marvel at the ingenuity and animals.
We closely follow the story of Simba the lion cub as he learns all about the life in the Savannah, totally unaware that his Uncle Scar (an excellent Christopher Colquhorn) is planning to kill him and his father Mufasa (Cleveland Cathnott) to become king. Scar orchestrates a stampede which kills his brother and convinces Simba he caused his father's death and orders him to leave, never to return.
But, under Scar's control, the animals have little to eat. Nala, who grew up with Simba, flees for a better life but is stunned when she finds her long-lost friend and convinces him to return and take his rightful place as King by overthrowing Scar.
Littered with hit musical numbers by Tim Rice and Elton John such as "Can you feel the love tonight", "Hakuna Matata" and "Circle of Life", this is a family-friendly musical that will delight and captivate an audience of all ages.
This is a must see for all theatregoers in the north east and not to be missed.
Reviewer: John Dixon