REVIEWED: Disney’s The Lion King at The Palace Theatre
Abi White | 2nd November 2022
The almighty Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ made a triumphant third return to Manchester last night at The Palace Theatre, following its last stint of shows back in 2015 and 2012.
It’s been 10 years since I first saw the show and it was one of the first musicals I had ever seen at The Palace Theatre back in 2012.
I remember how magical it felt; the puppets dancing through the air, the immersive experience as actors rushed down the aisles and the behemoth puppets. I was longing for that same feeling during this performance ever since I bagged myself a pair of tickets; did I feel the same way this time? You’ll have to wait until the end of the end of the review to find out.
The Lion King
It’s more than fair to say that The Lion King probably has one of the best opening intros to a musical… ever. It’s the renowned ‘Circle of Life’ for starters, and as Rafiki’s memorable tones from the film are mimicked through the theatre, the harmonious choir began to slowly hum the iconic melody.
It’s truly awe-inspiring as some of the 232 puppets begin appearing all across the auditorium. They come in all shapes and sizes, from enormous elephants to dainty and delicate birds, parading down through the stalls and lighting up everyone’s faces.
From the offset, Rafiki (played by Thandazile Soni) is a character that continuously weaves through the plotline. Her character is infectious and will have you giggling each time she appears on stage. The same can be said for Zazu (played by Matthew Forbes). I loved how location-relateable humour, as well as modern script updates had been woven in through this character to keep it humorous just like in the film. Whether it was comments about part of the set ‘looking like a shower curtain off Bury Market’ or singing Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ to Scar, it was cleverly done.
Alongside the phenomenal puppetry, the performance is visually breath taking throughout too through sets, shadow play and costume design. Although it felt worlds apart from the original film, the characters are brought to life in a brand new imaginative way that’s perfect for the stage.
Highlight numbers from Act One had to be ‘Circle of Life’, ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’ and ‘HakunaMatata’ (OBVIOUSLY!).
Disney's The Lion King,
Act Two had as much as a bold intro as Act One, as the ensemble charged down the aisles for round two, plunging into ‘One by One’. It’s impossible not to have a smile on your face during this musical, the colours, the warmth and the energy radiating is different to that of any other musical I’ve ever been to.
Admittedly, the less popular songs seem to fall into act two. ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ was a captivating number though, where Nala (Nokwanda Khuzwayo) and Simba (Stephenson Arden-Sodje) beautifully sang to the exquisitely choreographed track.
The stage adaptation of The Lion King tells the story in the same magical and moving way as the first film in my opinion. When the CGI re-make movie came out in 2019, I really wasn’t impressed and found the plot boring, despite it being the same. What I realised when watching the show this time around was that the way a story is told is equally as important as the plot line, and through all the intricacies and attention to detail that the stage show has, it makes it a wonderful and fascinating watch that I would urge anyone to go and see.
Disney’s The Lion King is at The Palace Theatre in Manchester until 11th March 2023 and you can get tickets here.