The Lion King is indubitably a Disney classic, with both an animated and a ‘live-action’ movie, as well as a live theatre show in its 21st year at the Lyceum Theatre. When watching the movies, it is hard to imagine how the story could possibly adapted to the stage, and performed to produce the same effect. After waiting far too long to watch the theatre rendition, all expectations were exceeded.

The story is a classic, Mufasa is brutally murdered by his brother, Scar, who seeks to take his throne, and Simba is forced into hiding, Simba befriends Pumbaa and Timon, and returns to his homeland to reclaim the throne. The story is both well known and well loved, a staple of Disney ever since its release in 1994, adored by boys and girls, adults and children alike.

The theatre itself is beautiful, located in Westminster, on Wellington Street, there is plenty to eat and see prior to seeing the show. The origins of the theatre date to 1765 and the design of the building is spectacular, simply seeing it is an experience in itself.

The theatre rendition does an incredible job in staging and costumes, producing a realistic and engaging effect that one may consider to be rather difficult, considering the cast of the movies is made entirely of animals; all of this can be credited to the work of Julie Taymor, who is the director and costume designer; and Richard Hudson, who worked on scenic design; as well as a number of lighting designers, choreographers and sound designers . Alongside this, the music is phenomenal, including the well loved classics of The Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata, as well as including songs specifically for the theatre show, such as He Lives in You, a song so powerful that it is shocking to know that it was never included in the original, as with the 1994 animation, the music can be credited to Elton John, with the lyrics written by Tim Rice.

Despite all of this, the play would be nothing were it not for the cast, which was one of the best I have seen in theatre. I must pay particular attention to the number of young actors and actresses who play Young Simba and Young Nala. I was taken aback by the strength of their performances despite their ages, let alone considering it. The ensemble also did an incredible job in setting scenes and adding an almost magical effect to what was happening on stage. Jamie McGregor, Mark Roper and Gary Jordan, playing Timon, Pumba and Zazu respectively added comedy to the play that was not forced and that the audience found genuinely funny, the comedic elements were appreciated by adults, and also by younger members of the audience, who perhaps would not have enjoyed a show with no comedic relief. Though the entire cast was amazing, the clear stand out was Gugwana Dlamini, who plays Rafiki, her performance was phenomenal, with her acting evoking every desired effect in the audience, and a voice so strong I found myself shocked at the fact that she was performing live, multiple times, and every night. 

Overall, seeing The Lion King was an incredible experience, particularly as someone who adores Disney, however, I believe the show is one that can be enjoyed by anyone, a classic story with a beautiful message performed so exquisitely it is hard to believe that what you are seeing is live, right in front of you, rather something that has been recorded and edited by professionals for years before release.