Bristol Hippodrome

The Lion King

September 2019

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PHOTO: Thandazile Soni (Rafiki) in Disney's The Lion King UK & Ireland tour

Out of Africa with pride

This is the second time I have seen The Lion King.

The multi-award-winning show went on tour in 2012 and I took a 12-year-old grandson.

We voted it our best musical ever.

And in 2019 I took his 11-year-old sister to the latest production of The Lion King which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome on Thursday night, September 12.

If it is possible to say it is even better than the first time I saw it, well it is – the stage was so full of spectacular you didn’t know where to focus your eyes.

My young plus one left the theatre speechless, saying ‘I don’t have the words to describe how amazing it is’.

Set against the majesty of the Serengeti to the evocative rhythms of Africa, The Lion King tells the story of Simba’s epic journey to fulfil his destiny as King of the Pridelands.

Director Julie Taymor uses breath-taking theatrical magic to bring Disney’s original animated feature to life in a production which has thrilled more than 95 million people around the world.

The show-stopping opening sequence (and I am trying here not to add any spoilers) is awe-inspiring especially the cute wiggly baby elephant with his trunk wrapped around his parent’s tail.

It is visually stunning, musically amazing and the vibrant colours of Africa pop from the veldt - go see, it's a must.

The psychedelic costumes topped by huge face masks against a backdrop of a brilliant blue sky is dazzling - but it is the technicality of the puppetry with all sorts of weird and wonderful contractions to make movement on the ground and in the air, which makes this so special.

That and the gazelle-like skill of the high-flying dancers and the faultless performances of the painted bare-chested people.

From a smelly warthog (Simon Beirnaert) who looks like I imagine Noel Fielding would first thing in the morning and his green man sidekick meerkat (Carl Sanderson) to charging wildebeest, from lanky giraffes on ungainly stilts to weeping lionesses caressed in widows weeds the animals came in droves and command the vast space.

We sat next to Louise from Bolton whose actor boyfriend Simon Trinder (Banzai) is part of a multi-talented trio of hyenas with Rebecca Omogbehin (Shenzi) and Alan Michale (Ed) who are akin to the wicked witches in Macbeth.

Only these weren’t white-robed incarnations of destiny but a cackle of scariness, clad in loosely-fitting, mottled dark grey overalls who lumped and humped along on hoofed feet wearing bovver boots.

Bad guys with Mohican manes that stuck up like toilet brush hair.

Despite the carnivore creatures with piercing laughs, long pink tongues and razor-sharp teeth, geysers and graveyards figure but there are some funny moments among the madness although sometimes the storyline got muddled in my mind with Jungle Book and Madagascar.

Stand-out performances? All of them but must mention Richard Hurst as Scar who plays his part like a posh pantomime villain with high-definition eyebrows, French star Jean-Luc Guizonne as big daddy Mufasa, Thandazile Soni as Rafiki the all-seeing and all-knowing if slightly mad mandrill (think Whoopi Goldberg in Ghosts with a wobbly bottom) who sang what has become the gospel anthem of Africa Nants Ingonyama and Matthew Forbes, the blue-bowler hatted puppeteer, as Zazu the court jester, an uptight, red-billed hornbill.

American actor Dashaun Young with South African Nala Josslynn Hlenti are the grown-up Simba and Nala but their young counterparts Hunter Del Valle Marfo and Minaii Barrowes slightly stole the show and got to ride on a queer life form akin to Big Bird and a kaleidoscopic Dalek.

Since its UK premiere in London in October 1999, The Lion King has played to more than 16 million people and is the West End’s best-selling stage production and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions it has a cast of more than 50 actors, singers and dancers.

South African composer Lebo M created an evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina.

And Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film.

The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, including the Academy Award-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight and the haunting Shadowland.

Hakuna matata which roughly translates to ‘there are no troubles’ in Swahili is the byword for this show which is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, November 23.

Played to one of the most diverse audiences and dress-to-the-nines audiences I have seen at the Hippodrome the theatre-goes were on their feet clapping and cheering and the cast took several curtain calls.

What it really needed was another chorus of Nants Ingonyama as the finale although it is on constant replay in my head.

​Carol Deacon

PHOTOS: Jean-Luc Guizonne (Mufasa), Richard Hurst (Scar) and Matthew Forbes (Zazu), Josslynn Hlenti (Nala) and Dashaun Young (Simba) with the company in Disney's The Lion King UK & Ireland tour.

  • Tickets from £20 to book click HERE. If you don’t catch it in Bristol it will be at Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre from Thursday to Wednesday, July 9-29 next year.

Richard_Hurst_(Scar)_and_Matthew_Forbes_
Josslynn_Hlenti_(Nala),_Dashaun_Young_(S
Disney's The Lion King. Photo by Deen va

The Lion King is back

PREVIEW: The Lion King is back at the Bristol Hippodrome for summer 2019.

This is in the top five all time shows seen by Nailsea People and if you haven't seen it yet suggest you go and take the children and the grandchildren.

We went to see it back in 2012 and you can read our review from that time here by clicking HERE.

The award-winning musical new tour opens in Bristol in September.

The actual opening night has yet to be announced by if like previously at Bristol the stall seating will have to be re-arranged.

Since its UK premiere in London in October 1999 The Lion King has entertained more than 15 million theatregoers and remains the West End’s best-selling stage production and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

The previous tour broke attendance records across the nation.

With a cast of more than 50 actors, singers and dancers, the story is miraculously brought to life using masks, puppets and striking costumes to tell the story of young Simba's epic adventures as he struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and becoming king.
The stunning simplicity of The Lion King is the work of a team of designers which drew on diverse cultural influences to recreate the rich colours and vast expanses of the African savanna in this daring and inspiring reinvention of one of the most successful animated films of all time.

Julie Taymor’s internationally-celebrated stage adaptation opened on Broadway in 1997 and 25 global productions have now been seen by more than 95 million people.

Having played 100 plus cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King's worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.   

The original score from the animated film was expanded for the stage and now features 15 musical numbers. 

As well as writing completely new songs, South African composer Lebo M created an evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina.

Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film.

The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, including the Academy Award-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight and the haunting Shadowland.

Lion King theatre tickets go on general sale online, by phone and at the Bristol Hippodrome box office from 8am on Wednesday, February 27.

ATG TheatreCard holders will be able to purchase pre-sale tickets from 8am on Tuesday, February 26.Demand expected to be huge.
Tickets can also be purchased by calling 0844 2410093 or visiting www.thelionking.co.uk or www.atgtickets.com.​

PHOTOS: The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre, London by Johan Persson and The Embrace with Nick Afoa as Simba, Janique Charles as Nala 2017 by Disney 

Bristol performance information:

  • Previews: Saturday, September 7 and Wednesday, September 11

  • Premiere: Thursday, September 12

  • Signed performance: Wednesday evening, October  2

  • Audio described performance: Wednesday evening, October 16

  • Captioned performance: Wednesday evening, November 6

  • Relaxed performance: Tuesday evening,  November 19.