This is not the Lion King you remember from
when you were a child. This is an intense Broadway re-creation
of the Disney’s classic films, that captivates the audience.From
the instant the curtain rose, as Rafiki, played by Gugwana
Dlamini, calls out “Nants’ Ingonyama,” cheers
and applause erupted from the audience. The introductory song, “Circle
of Life” was barely audible amid the deafening excitement
of our applause.
After the clapping subsided, the production transported the audience
to the African plains and a great menagerie of animals both large
and small. Just as in the film, we meet Mufasa, played by Geno
Segers, Sarabi, played by Marvette Williams, and young Simba,
played by Trevor Jackson or Nicholas Ashe, and the evil Scar,
played by Kevin Gray.
In an interview with The Honolulu Advertiser’s Wayne Harada,
Gray expressed each performer’s commitment to bringing
his or her role to life, “If I don’t get booed,” Gray
said, “I haven’t done my job.”
Gray did his job well. Each time he came on stage, Scar’s
treachery and wickedness were palpable throughout the performance
Another character who made a great impression on the audience
was Gugwana Dlamini’s Rafiki. Karen Gaspar, an HPU senior,
saw the show during opening week and felt Dlamini’s performance
was her favorite.
The actress did more with that character than I expected, and
the way she projected that character was outstanding. Rafiki
had an excellent voice and stage presence,” Gaspar said.
The cast and set were interactive, as the production’s
designers put a lot of effort into making each member of the
audience a part of the show. Performers were found in the aisles
and balconies singing and dancing, and puppets flew through the
The set designs were intricate and detailed and moved flawlessly
from one scene to another. The Pridelands drifted across the
stage, and without any trouble the elephant skeleton extended
into view. The jungle and Rafiki’s tree grew out onto the
stage leading the audience and Simba away from a troubled past.
From the opening song, when the warm colors of the rising sun
welcomed the audience into Africa, every change of scene was
reinforced by subtle excellence of lighting that emphasized the
moods of the characters and situations.
The costumes were unique. Though many of them were developed
with an animal puppet as the focus, each actor blended the animal
and the person together. The jump between human and animal was
Zazu, advisor to Mufasa, played by Michael Dean Morgan, demonstrated
the seamless transition perfectly when appearing on stage as
a puppet. Morgan carried the bird within most of the scenes,
but at one point he puts the puppet down completely and interacts
with the set as a man. And he remained Zazu, though the bird
was nowhere to be seen.
HPU junior Martin Valdez has seen the production three times
in New York and went for the fourth time here on O‘ahu.
Valdez loved the production and said, “It is one of the
best visual works of art, and the music is amazing.”
The music, much of which is familiar to those who have seen the
Disney film, was created by Elton John and Tim Rice. Additional
songs, composed with the help of the choral director, Lebo M,
were added to the Broadway production, and these provide more
depth to the characterizations and to the Lion King itself.
The Lion King achieved a strong connection with the audience,
one that could be heard in applause throughout the show and seen
in the standing ovation at the end. The performance was one for
all ages, not just families.
HPU student Martha Randolph, who has seen hundreds of Broadway
productions—her father is the late actor John Randolph—thought
enough of the Lion King that she e-mailed all of her teachers
and classmates, encouraging them to see the show: “This
play can never be done by an amateur company…It’s
too expensive to produce the costumes, puppets, and [there are]
no amateur talents up to the technique required by this play.
This will be your one chance to see this production, probably
in your life time if you live and remain in Hawai‘i. [Lion
King] will fill your heart with joy and the memory will stay
with you forever.”
The Lion King
When: Through December 9
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Show Times: Tuesday-Friday 8 p.m.
Saturday 2 & 8 p.m.
Sunday 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Admission: Tues.-Thurs & 6:30 p.m. Sunday
$33, $74, $86
Fridays, Saturdays, & 1 p.m. Sundays
$38, $79, $91
For tickets call 877-750-440, visit ticketmaster.com,
or visit any Ticketmaster outlet.