My first ever West End show, at the tender age of six years old, was The Lion King. And now, 12 years later, I was going to see it again. My Auntie, Sarah, had decided that we were going to go and see it for her birthday, with a couple of her work friends. Unfortunately one of her friends couldn’t make it, so I asked Mel, my theatrical friend, to come with us instead. I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I couldn’t remember much of the show from last time, but I went with an open mind.
We had pretty good seats, row R of the stalls, on the far left. As “The Circle of Life” began and all the animals made their way to Pride Rock, a chill went down my spine. This was going to be good. Gugwana Dlamini, who played Rafiki, was spectacular. I didn’t know it was humanly possible to sing that fast! She was mesmerising to watch, the whole production was. The special effects were incredible! At one point an elephant walked down the middle of the aisle and onto the stage. It was just beautiful. Of course, we all know that The Lion King is a sad film. That is NOTHING compared to watching it live. Cleveland Cathnott who played Mufasa was a brilliant actor, just the right balance of strong leader and doting father. I couldn’t help myself, even though I knew what was coming, I fell in love with the character. Stephen Carlile who played Scar was the perfect drawling, sarcastic “baddie” – much like the film version of Scar. When it came to that moment in the play, I could already feel the tears coming. As Stephen uttered the immortal words “Long. Live. The king” and Mufasa fell to his death, the breath was knocked from me. The entire theatre was silent, but the silence was punctuated with barely-surpressed sobs and shuddering breaths. I, for one, was crying like a baby. As young Simba, (Daniel Daszek-Green) was told to “run away and never return” I thought, that’s it, curtain down. But, in a stroke of genius, the show continued and introduced Timon (John Hasler) and Pumbaa (Mark Roper.) In an instant the mood of the whole theatre was lifted. Their comic timing was PERFECT and soon I was crying with laughter.
The second act was as good as, if not better than, the first. I can’t even begin to describe how stunning the costumes and choreography were, I couldn’t do them justice. Naturally the entire cast received a standing ovation at the end. On my way out I couldn’t resist buying a t-shirt that said “keep calm and Hakuna Matata.” Come on, that’s brilliant!