How THE LION KING Became A Global Phenomenon

 

We’re feeling the love tonight

 

 

In 2014, THE LION KING musical was officially named the highest-grossing show of all time, surpassing crowd favorite and veteran The Phantom of the Opera. In November of that year, the show passed the USD6.2 billion mark in a feat that’s equal parts deserving and awe-inspiring.

 

Sure, you can credit its accomplishment to the Disney hit that the show was based on, but that would be a major cop out. It takes so much more than a tried-and-tested story set in beautiful Africa to take a show to Broadway and succeed tremendously. There’s more to it than the songs we memorized like the back of our hands and the characters that introduced us to the dark side of pride and a genuine form of leadership.

 

 

It’s in eliciting a feeling that you thought you already knew

Everyone knows the opening lyric to Circle of Life. It makes us all silent and prepares us for what’s to come: A breathtaking scene that illuminates as the sun rises on the fields of Africa, littered with animals of different colors, different sizes and different sounds. It marks the presentation of a new prince that will one day rule a kingdom with all the wisdom and strength that his forefathers gave him.

 

You’ve seen this dozens of times, but seeing it unfold onstage is different. It heightens a feeling you thought you knew in ways you didn’t think were possible anymore. And it only gets better from there.

 

 

It’s in changing for the better

THE LION KING musical incorporates new features to some of its main characters, Rafiki and Nala. Now a female, Rafiki is surprisingly more eccentric and plays a more solid role in Simba’s self-actualization. Nala, on the other hand, grows more into her character and acts as more than just a romantic interest that brings Simba back to his roots. Even the hyenas are given more stage time, making them more villain and less comic relief.

 

The music and songs are also given another dimension, largely because it pays more tribute to African culture as more parts are sung in African languages. Many of us might not understand, but this just somehow adds to the intensity of it all.

 

 

It’s in the introduction of something new

All the classics we fell in love with as children are there: Circle of Life, Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel The Love Tonight. But there are also songs that won’t be familiar, like Chow Down, which highlights another side to the hyenas and Shadowland, sung by an adult Nala and performed with the rest of the lionesses as she makes the choice to leave Pride Rock.

 

It’s in the production

If anything at all, THE LION KING is a production unlike everything else that has graced the stage. The set, the costumes, the acting, the music, the choreography—everything comes together in virtually seamless harmony. There’s artistry in the way the light hits the stage and casts shadows you have to remind yourself are man-made. There’s beauty in every note sung and every chord struck. There’s an experience that’s just waiting to be felt and digested.

 

 

 

You can catch THE LION KING at the Theater at Solaire until May 20