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Circle of Life spread by Deen Van Meer (2).jpg
Grasslands Cleveland Cathnott as MUFASA by Deen Van Meer (2).jpg
Disney's The Lion King. Rafiki Gazelle. Photo by Brinkoff and Mogenburg.jpg
CoL_TheLionKing NL 2016_ Photo by Deen van Meer Netherlands -resized.jpg

Return of Lion King

The Lion King at the Bristol Hippodrome is a truly an ‘out of Africa’ experience.

Your senses are hit with a riot of colour and sound from the start of this award-winning musical which should be top of everyone’s must-see theatre bucket list.

The costumes and performances are breathtaking.

And using puppetry, lights, shadows, and silhouettes the scenery is stunning.

This is the third time I have seen The Lion King and it seems to have become more family friendly but that would have been my familiarity with knowing what comes next.

The ‘three witches’ of Shakespeare become the scary hyenas Shenzi (Candida Mosoma), Banzai (Reece McKenzie), and Ed (Alex Bloomer), the uptight red-biller hornbill Zazu (Matthew Forbes) is a regimental sergeant major, and a meerkat called Timon (Alan McHale) with his best buddy Pumbaa (Carl Sanderson), a gluttonous warthog are a great comedic double act from pantomime.

The masks, the stilts, the red pointe ballet shoes, contraptions that look like garden art, the height of the rockface at the edge of the savannah, the elephant’s graveyard, phew.

And the movements to depict characters – the eyes and ears didn’t know what to absorb next, an overwhelming kaleidoscope of treats.

The theme song Hakuna Matata meaning ‘no worries’ from the 1994 Disney movie The Lion King resonates with your soul much like the South African national anthem Nkosi Sikelel.

The score contains songs from the film written by Elton John and Tim Rice, and a score composed by Hans Zimmer, with African chants by Lebo M, we even get a baboon singing in Khoisan, a clicking language.

Add to the music mix a fabulous live orchestra with conductor Matt Abrams and up in the boxes from fantastic drummers.

It is so good to see an almost all-black cast, such as in the Marvel film

Black Panther, which is reflective of the 90 per cent of ethnic people living on the African continent.

This story is a rite of passage adventure following from birth to adulthood of a lion cub called Simba born to be King, played by London schoolboy Vidar Soluade and St Kitts musical star Kyle Richardson.

It is easier to follow if you have seen the film, my guests agreed.

Esmae Lander, aged 12, thought the dancing was very good.

She said: “I saw one of the ensemble dancers perform a very difficult pirouette.”

Erin Silvester said: “It was a lot more child-friendly than the last time I saw it in London when a young person with us screamed and screamed.

“Now the hyenas are funnier rather than too frightening.”

The show has an age restriction of 6+.

The standout performance must be the baddie Scar (Richard Hurst), Simba’s dad Mufasa (Jean-Luc Guizonne) and the ageing and wise baboon Rafiki (Thandazile Soni).

But everyone got a huge standing ovation at the finale.

The Lion King plays at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, July 1.

For online tickets from £20 plus booking fee go to

PHOTOS: From top Circle of Life, grassland, Rafiki, and giraffes on stilts all by Deen Van Meer

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