“The Lion King” is a fantastic stage musical, but not because of the songs or the story. Oh sure, those are very good, but Disney already knew that with the success of the animated film that the musical is based on.
The songs by Elton John and the plot loosely based on “Hamlet” were already iconic when the show made the leap from the screen to the stage.
But an important decision was made when it came to bringing to life the African animals that are the focus of “The Lion King.” Instead of just putting actors in costumes, the show leans heavily on complex, life-sized puppetry and inspired set design.
The result means that the show, now playing at the Fox Theatre through June 19, is dependably impressive whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the 30th.
“The Lion King” is the story of a young lion named Simba (played by Jaylen Lyndon Hunter or Jordan Pendleton depending on the performance) who learns the ropes from his father Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey), the king of the Pridelands.
Things are idyllic in the natural harmony of the kingdom, but Mufasa’s sinister brother Scar (Spencer Plachy) has his eyes on the throne and rallies sneaky hyenas to his side.
When tragedy befalls the kingdom, Simba leaves the Pridelands and finds unlikely friends in the form of meerkat Timon (Nick Cardileone) and warthog Pumbaa (John E. Bradley) who live by no-worries motto of “hakuna matata.”
As Simba grows up (adult Simba is played by Darian Sanders) he’s forced to pick between his carefree lifestyle with Timon and Pumbaa and his responsibilities back in the Pridelands.
What’s impressive about the stage production is that none if it is particularly revolutionary, it’s just incredibly well-done. A stunning wildebeest stampede is accomplished with little more than three-tiers of forced-perspective, various sized puppets and costumes and a whole lot of drums.
“The Lion King” is a consistent marvel that never fails to deliver and is not to be missed.
“The Lion King” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through June 19. For tickets call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.