Having seen the original production at the Pantages years ago, this reviewer wondered if the touring production could deliver the awesomeness of that wonderment. . Have no fear; it does-magnificently.
The imaginative animal puppets made their grand entrance following the wonderful opening call by Rafika (Gugwana Diamini), the witch doctor. From that African-inspired solo opening to the triumphant finale, there was no doubt that this production was as fresh and new as the original.
Every cast member was top notch with a rousing shout out for Jaylen Lyndon Hunter as Simba, the young lion, who, at such a young age, carried the first act balanced perfectly by Gerald Ramsey as Mufasa, his father, the king of the lion pride.
Technically delightful, there must be a special acknowledgement to Richard Hudson for scenic design especially his Serengeti savannah grasslands. I'm still smiling.
Occasionally musicals lag in the second act, but there were no fillers or low points as an older Simba (Darian Sanders) steps in to take his rightful place in the pride. All musical numbers flowed well with the book moving the story forward. The strong ensemble as well as principal players not only sing, act and dance, they maneuver their puppet wear effortlessly (I doubt it was an effortless learning experience). Notable mention to Timba and Pumbaa ( Nick Cordileone and John E. Brady) whose humor lent a bit of nostalgia for older theatre goers.
Lastly, a special note for the costuming (Julie Taymor and Michael Curry) and Taymor's direction. Lion King has always been her tour de force and this production is no exception.
Live theatre tickets-especially Broadway productions-are an investment and these days we appreciate value for our money. You've heard the expression "an embarrassment of riches," that's Disney's Lion King. Even if you have seen it before , do yourself a favor and make your reservations today.
Disney's Lion King runs through March 26 at the always glorious Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. www.broadwayinhollywood.com