What a blessing on Broadway! Disney’s “The Lion King,” playing at the Minskoff Theatre at 245 W. 45th St., is approaching its 25th anniversary on Nov. 13, 2022. I recently had the pleasure of going to see the show with my daughters—ages 29 and 20, both had seen the musical at the age of 5 and loved it. As I sat with them in the audience and heard Rafiki start the conversation and the call and responses that followed, I felt chills. Then, the animal puppets, the dancers dressed in costumes of zebras and other wildlife gave me thrills. There is something so beautifully dramatic about that opening scene in “The Lion King.” Something that says to you, this is going to be an experience like no other!
For almost 25 years, audiences have come to see this very spiritual musical with a story that showcases African culture, beliefs and language. This musical has some of the most powerful music and lyrics by Elton John, Tim Rice, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer, along with a stunning book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi. There is also unbelievably poignant choreography by Garth Fagan and incredible direction by Julie Taymor, who along with Michael Curry is also the mastermind behind the animal mask and puppet design.
This musical tells the story of Mufasa, the Lion King; his newborn son, Simba, who is to grow up to be king; and Mufasa’s jealous brother Scar, who is furious that he is being passed over. “The Lion King” demonstrates how everything in nature is connected and how everyone’s existence is part of the Circle of Life. But it also has a deeper side that shows the love and connection between father and son and mother and son.
There are so many moments in this musical when I found myself with tears in my eyes from the beauty of what was being performed in front of me and the life lessons being taught. “The Lion King” has love, loss, jealousy, joy, anger and redemption. Another excellent reason to see it now is for the original cast members who have returned. Another excellent reason to see it now is for the familiar cast members including L. Steven Taylor, who has been Mufasa for many years and is doing what he does with such heart and brilliance. Tshidi Manye is Rafiki and she is magnificent in this role. Her emotions, heart and humor come through splendidly.Her emotions, heart and humor come through splendidly.
Of course, one of the most endearing aspects of “The Lion King” for me these 25 years is that it has always been a major source of employment on Broadway for Black and South African people. That is a distinction which makes it soar to new heights in my eyes. The cast is singing all the songs that we have all come to love. “Circle of Life” will give you head-to-toe chills. “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” will put a smile on your face. “They Live in You” will grab your heart and soul. It is such a beautiful moment between father and son. “He Lives In You” is a great number that will stun and inspire.
Sitting there with my daughters, I experienced the overwhelming emotions that come with seeing exceptional performers, giving performances with everything that is in them. The cast and the ensemble are stupendous. Please make plans to go and see “The Lion King” and know why it has at least 25 more years to go!
For more info, visit www.lionking.com.