Saturday September 23rd 2017

“The Lion King”

                                                   It’s Back! I believe this is the fourth time I have been witness to the Disney magic of “The Lion King”. This musical ( with lyrics and music by Elton John and Tim Rice) has amazed millions of theater audiences, of all ages and in all continents and still brings a warm feeling to my heart from the opening number “Circle of Life” until the very end with “King of Pride Rock” and the reprise of “Circle of Love”. It is a touching story filled with marvelous characters played by actors who in many cases become puppeteers as well. Over 200 puppets are used in this production, some just stick rods, others birds attached to a stick that is twirled by an ensemble member and some where the actors and puppets are as one ( two of these are main characters-Timon (Nick Cordileone) and Pumbaa ( Ben Lipitz) who add a lot of comedy to the show and do a rousing job with “Hakuna Matata” the Act One Finale.

This is the third run of this production at The Cadillac Palace ( probably the best stage for the show) and for the most part this cast is as solid as the ones before. I must say that the villain Scar, although played well by J. Anthony Crane, is not quite as menacing as our own Larry Yando was in his stay, but there is only one Yando and right now he is on to other things. While there are many standout performances, from Brenda Mhlongo, our narrator ( the baboon) , The powerful Dionne Randolph as Mufasa, Tony Freeman as Zazu ( another tricky puppet character), Adam Jacobs as Simba (grown), Kolton Stewart ( young),Syndee Winters as Nala (grown),Monique Lee ( young) and Tryphena Wade as Sarabi, this is truly an ensemble show. These performers play many roles, change costumes and work puppets as they sing and dance their way into our hearts. Not only on the stage, but coming down the aisles to make their initial entrance and get us started in this tale  that tells of love, hate and jealousy, but the true message of the story is not to look back ( or learn from your past) but proceed forward in your life. There has to be a message- this is Disney.

Each time I see “The Lion King” , I tend to notice little things that I missed in previous performances and in this case, I didn’y realize that there were almost 40 Hyenas. I know there are the three main hyenas and that several more join them as Scar brings them to Pride Rock, but tonight I realized that there are over three dozen which means that most of the ensemble  takes on one of these roles and then goes on to the next costume/animal in the jungle.

Since the costumes and sets as well as the lighting and sound are all recreations of the original as is the direction and choreography as well as the puppets, the credit for a masterful production should go to the stage manager, Matthew Lambert for keeping it all together and making it run smoothly. I know that there is a resident director ( for run throughs etc) and dance supervisor to make certain that the quality of the original stays fresh for each new audience, so to Deborah Shrimpton and Eddy Jackson- have a great run.To the entire crew and cast- “Yes, I felt the love tonight”

If you missed the previous runs of “The Lion King”, you might want to make sure that this time you get to see it. It will be here through November 27th at the Cadillac Palace Theatre as part of The Broadway In Chicago series. The theater is located at 151 West Randolph Street. The performance schedule:

Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.

Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

Matinees are Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m.

There will be some special performances during this run: Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. 10/26,11/16 and 11/23 and a matinee on Friday November 26th at 2 p.m. THERE WILL BE NO PERFORMANCE on 11/25, Thanksgiving.

Tickets start as low as $25 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway in Chicago box offices, by phone at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlet stores and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

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