It's fun to imagine the reaction of Disney executives when director
Either way, Taymor proved she knew what she was doing: "The Lion King," in its 15th year, is the seventh longest-running show in Broadway history.
The touring version, at the
Do I really have to remind you of the plot? Young lion cub Simba is tricked by wicked Uncle Scar into believing he is responsible for his father's death so he flees his homeland to drift aimlessly with a wisecracking meerkat and warthog. The love of a good lioness and a whack on the head from an eccentric baboon lead him to grow up, accept his responsibilities as a member of society and find his place in the great circle of life.
The animated Disney film, on which the musical is based, handled the mix of grownup themes and kiddie fare with aplomb; the stage version isn't always as successful. It can't help but be jarring when against a backdrop of exquisitely designed costumes, flowing dance moves and that hypnotic African chanting to suddenly have a squawking bird crack a one-liner. (Though it must be pointed out that Mark David Kaplan, as the bird Zazu, expertly squawks and sputters like a classic Vaudevillian ham.)
The other principal comic players — Nick Cordileone and Adam Kozlowski as Timon and Pumbaa, the trio portraying hyenas — embody the personas of their animated predecessors.
It's up to the dramatic actors to add some flesh and blood to the cartoon characters, and they succeed admirably.
J. Anthony Crane's Scar is appropriately melodramatic and imposing, though his growly shouting buries some of Scar's jokier lines and he talk-sings too much of his signature "Be Prepared," giving the unsettling melody short shrift.
Dionne Randolph is a less grave, more energetic Mufasa than some — which makes his worries over parenting Simba and untimely death more poignant. Jelani Remi and Syndee Winters as adult Simba and his gal Nala also have youthful singing voices, which enhance their characterizations.
Perhaps the younger sounds help bring a freshness to the show, which avoids feeling mechanical even after all these years. Certainly adding to the exuberance factor: Adante Power, whose Young Simba is a whirlwind of personality with a dynamite grin.
And irrepressible Buyi Zama manages the tricky feat of being both grave and hysterical simultaneously as wise old Rafiki.
Somehow "The Lion King's" combination of jokes about passing gas and moments of soul-searching truths casts a wide net. Although the phrase "for all ages" has become hackneyed, "The Lion King" deserves the description.
Just ask the grandmotherly woman who sat next to me, humming along with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" or the small boy behind me, shouting excitedly "That's Zazu! That's Scar!"
That's stage magic.
'The Lion King'
• What: Touring production of Disney's Broadway musical, presented by Florida Theatrical Association
• When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, through May 13 (no 6:30 p.m. show May 13)
• Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St.,
• Tickets: $25-$85
• Call: 407-246-4262