I'm rather stagey (hence the blog), and an avid fan of Geography, cute things, crisps and anything Disney.
I HAVE TO GET RID OF 480 WORDS FROM MY DISSERTATION AND I CANT! SOMEBODY HELP ME!
Performance: Friday 12th July, 2014 - evening. Second performance at the Mayflower Theatre.
Having seen the London production of the Lion King and been a little underwhelmed, I thought I would give the UK Tour a chance, and get tickets for the opening night at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. The tickets were originally for the opening night, but due to it’s sell-out three month run at the theatre, it added an extra show on Thursday.
We arrived at the theatre from the back, and were very amused at the sight of three hyenas stood outside the stage door having a smoke! We found it rather funny, although it would definitely ruin the illusion for younger audience members, which is not what the Disney brand likes!
Having 99% of the 2400 theatre seats sold out for our performance, the lobby and surrounding areas were jam packed, which put me off joining the long line to buy merchandise. In fact, you couldn’t even see prices or the full range available without having to fight an angry mob! However, to my delight, the second floor entrance to the dress circle had another merchandise stand that was practically desserted! Like the London production, you can buy a cast program for £4 and a fully illustrated/photographic production brochure for £8, with a combination offer of £10 for both. I bought both. I also bought a keyring, priced at £5. A little on the overpriced side, but then these things always are!
We were sat in the centre of Row B in the dress circle, my favourite location. The best view in the house, and the best place to sit to be able to appreciate the vocals even more.
As with London, I enjoyed the show, but was left a little underwhelmed. I would not describe it as “phenomenal” as many people do.
Particular members of the cast were weak, including Simba, young Simba, Mufasa and Zazu, which was a real shame. Although ridiculously cute, the little lad playing young Simba couldn’t act or sing, and both young Simba and Young Nala were very quiet, although Young Nala did seem to have a great singing voice.
For some bizarre reason, Meilyr Sion, who played Zazu, use a really thick Scottish accent, despite the fact he’s Welsh, which made him hard to understand at several points, and it made several of Zazu’s quick witted jokes fall flat. He did have great comic timing though.
The absolute stars of the show were John Hasler (Timon), Stephen Carlile (Scar) and Gugwana Dlamini (Rafiki). Gugwana was a fantastic Rifiki, and her voice and characteristics were so hilarious, but also very moving at the appropriate times. She gave a fantastic performance. (Even if she did open “Circle of Life” with a slightly bum note, but even that was quickly corrected!). John Hasler and Lee Ormsby (Pumbaa) were a fantastic duo, but John Hasler was just marvellous as Timon, and I think I would declare him as the most well-cast role in the show. He used the puppet perfectly, as would be expected, but, like Gugwana, his voice and body language could go from overwhelmingly funny to calm and moving in a split second. A five star actor. Stephen Carlile (Scar) was definitely one of the best singers in the show, although I was disappointed at the lack of power in his rendition of “Be Prepared”. That said, he brought power, drama and comedy to his performance as Scar, and was another very well cast role in the show.
Other notable performances came from Me’sha Bryan, who played Shenzi the Hyena, and Teisha Duncan who played Sarabi (Mufasa’s wife/Simba’s dad). Me’sha’s voice matched that of the movie hyena almost perfectly, and her intonation was still very succinct, meaning you could hear every word she said, but still appreciate her comic timing and hyena accent! Teisha’s voice was beautiful, and the song she sings solo (a section of “Nao Tse Tsa”) was one of the most moving parts of the show. Her voice was definitely underused - I wish she’d sung more!
The show itself I find quite confusing - I’d definitely recommend re-watching the film before seeing a performance. The show is very “symbolic” in nature, as you will know from seeing photos of the cast and props. This works brilliantly for the most part, but there are a few areas that are quite hard to follow. For example, at one point, Mufasa removes his lion headdress and puts it on the floor whilst he talks to Simba, and then puts it back on afterwards. Despite the fact it’s a little unsettling to see a lions head on the floor, the reasoning behind it rather vague. I came to the conclusion that it symbolises the fact he has taken off his ‘crown’ and is talking to Simba as a father, not as a king. Another somewhat horrifying moment is when the female lions ‘cry’. They pull long ribbons from the eyes of their lion headdresses, and then leave them there. It looks a little like there eyes have been blown out and have just been left hanging by a thread. Lovely.
Despite that, there are some fantastic effects throughout the performance, such as the way Mufasa appears in the sky, and the way the wildebeest stampede is portrayed. The show is very immersive too, with the animals arriving via the aisles in the stalls, and the dress circle and boxes are filled with performers at several points during the production. The staging was done exceptionally well, with the only noticable difference between the tour and the London show being the fact that the grasslands people walk on from the side, rather than rise up through the floor.
Overall, a fantastic night out for any Lion King fan. The singing was under par when comparing it to the London production, but the hilarious acting of several cast members more than makes up for it! I hope to see John Hasler in something else very soon - side splitting funny, and very talented indeed. I wouldn’t recommend forking out for top price tickets, but I do think the show is worth seeing! The tour is at the Mayflower until September, so see it if you can!