|Jelani Remy as Simba|
Broadway Philadelphia, in collaboration with the Kimmel Center and the Shubert Organization, is presenting Disney’s THE LION KING through Sunday June 14 at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. The North American touring productions of THE LION KING have been seen by more than 15 million theatre-goers. Having already played in more than 70 cities across North America, THE LION KING is joyfully leaping into its return engagement at the Academy of Music. Whether or not you have ever seen this stunning production, you must make plans to see it before it leaves the Academy of Music stage. The opening number, “Circle of Life” is nothing short of spectacular. As music comes from the orchestra pit and from percussion instruments in the mezzanine boxes, and the sun rises onstage while the animals parade down the aisles, you are not merely watching a show, you are in the Serengeti. Young children are fascinated by this production. Although based on Disney’s animated film, it definitely is not for children only. Younger audiences lack the sophistication and the eye to appreciate the incredible staging of the leaping impalas in the first act and the skeletal remains in the second. Nor do they have the ear to understand the subtle change of the female lionesses singing and dancing in a joyous manner in the first act which later turns to minor key laments during the time of famine under the rule of Scar. The score features a fusion of Elton John and Tom Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs they wrote for this production as well as additional South African music. The combined result is breathtaking. Whenever Tshidi Manye, portraying Rafiki the baboon, belts out an African chant, the audience is spellbound. It is no small wonder that THE LION KING won six Tony Awards in 1998, among them Best Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical. The show’s original director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success. The mask designs are exquisite. L. Steven Taylor, portraying Mufasa and later Jelani Remy, portraying Simba has to “face off” against Patrick R. Brown, as Scar, the lion who would be king. As each lowers his head and twists his body, the mask lowers in an incredible manner. No matter how good the wordsmith, none could give this incomparable production justice. You simply must come and see it for yourself. Tickets are available at the Kimmel Center Box Office, Broad & Spruce Sts. (open daily 10 am to 6 pm) or at the Academy of Music box office, Broad & Locust Sts. (open during performances only), online at the kimmelcenter.org/broadway, or by calling 215-731-3333. Orders for groups of 20 or more may be placed by calling 215-790-5883 or 866-276-2947.