King of the Broadway Jungle

Ow, but I’m neglecting this blog-thing something fierce these days!  Turns out my REAL coma came after the Fringe this year…I just can’t get back into the swing of things without that daily race between venues and a handy-dandy beer tent.  Must be why I’m spending most of my time these days eagerly anticipating my upcoming journey to the VICTORIA FRINGE FESTIVAL…and yes, there’ll be full Visitorium coverage of said event (any VicFringe muckity-mucks reading this, yes, you’re perfectly free to toss me a media pass for my troubles…hell, they fell for it in Ottawa…)

But life goes on here in hometown, and I really do have to get my theatre legs up and running again, not to mention the whole ‘writing about it’ bizness.   With that in mind, here”s the most absolutely useless post I will ever write…my review of Disney’s THE LION KING.  That’s the theatre show, not the film (which I have actually never seen), also known as the BROADWAY show…and me reviewing a Broadway show, well, that’s sort of like rubbing two sticks together during a forest fire.

I helped!

But goddamit, I was there, and I need to remember how to put these things together before I become even more irrelevant, so here’s the tale.  It was really all my parents doing, as they wanted to take the whole family out to this Lion-thing, for the nieces, y’know.  So they bought the tickets (and thank Christ, because they ain’t cheap…fucking Broadway!)  and we were off.  I met up with the folks early, we had some eats at the Wellington Diner (thank you, Nadine Thornhill for hepping me to that joint!), then headed on down to the NAC for the Thursday afternoon performance.    We met up with my Sister and Brother-in-law, and the Niecelets Brynn and Clara, who were especially superoverexcited for the show in the way that only 6 and 8 year-olds could be.

Me, I was a little nervous as we headed into Southam Hall, a land I seldom venture inside…my usual theatre is on a decidedly smaller scale than what I was about to be hit with.  One person shows, there’s MY meat!  But I persevered, took my seat, and waited for the show to begin.  When it did, it was with a huge swelling symphony of sound, and a virtual army of extras and cast in some pretty spectacular costumes mimicking  an Ark’s worth of jungle critters storming the stage (elephant included), to celebrate the iconic moment of the birth of Simba, the titular Lion King-to-be.

I gotta admit, it was a hell of an opening.

From there, you probably all know the story, whether you’ve seen the movie or not.  Young Simba chafes at having to follow in the mighty shadow of his father, King Mustafa (a smashing Dionne Randolph).  Villainous uncle Scar (J.Anthony Crane having himself some fun) plots Mustafa’s death, and Simba is driven away into the arms of the comic relief, Timon and Pumbaa.  He turns into slightly-less-young Simba, is rejoined by childhood friend Nala, and returns to reclaim the throne and kick some Hyena.

Now, this is obviously a show aimed at kids, so a cynical misanthrope like me had the odd moment where I fell out of the performance, realizing that what I was witnessing was essentially just a soulless, money-driven rehash of a hackneyed cartoon that, like most of Disney’s modern pictures, doesn’t hold up very well under even the most minimal of moral scrutinies.  But then again, when they managed to recreate the enormous ghostly head of Mufasa addressing Simba by the riverbank, and Brynn leaned over to me whispering ‘that’s so cool!, it was really kind of hard to argue with her.

LION KING the theatrical show is what it is: a blockbuster.  A showstopper.  It’s big theatre, the kind we don’t really get to see that often in Ottawa, and it really was kind of a treat even for me.  The costumes and puppetry ARE fantastic, the performances all work, and the music does its job nicely (even if my worst fears DID come true, and I had that God-damned ‘Hakuna Matata’ song stuck in my head later on).  This is Event Theatre.  And it works perfectly as just that.

So after the house came down and a pleased crowd handed the onstage gang a standing O, me and the Fam split up and headed off through the delighted throngs still lining up at the concession stands (Disney, remember).  I walked outside into something like 45-degree heat which, after a show set in deepest Africa, seemed entirely appropriate.  If you wanna go and see yourself some might big theatre, LION KING is still going ’til August 7th.  And it IS fun, really. It’s just, you know…DISNEY fun.  If that’s your thing, you’re set.

Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

One comment

  1. Great post! I especially love the ‘rubbing two sticks together’ analogy. Big Broadway musicals are not really my thing either (though I will admit that when the Lion King movie came out I saw it in the theatre…and then maybe 1 or 100 more times…), so I’m quite sure I enjoyed this post more than I would the actual show. Glad you got to see it with your nieces, I can just imagine how exciting that must have been for them – won’t be long before you can start taking them to Fringe shows, eh?

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