The Lion King @ Edinburgh Playhouse

The Lion King is still an engrossing, majestic production, brimming with its signature heart and pride

Review by Elaine Reid | 16 Dec 2019
  • The Lion King @ Edinburgh Playhouse

From towering giraffes to leaping antelopes, strutting zebras and a colossal stomping elephant sweeping through the aisles towards the stage, the opening scene of Disney’s The Lion King is perhaps the most iconic of musical beginnings. Based on the 1994 animated film, the stage show has become the highest-grossing musical in history. 

As the host of majestic creatures take to the stage in a carnival of colours, this version of The Lion King – directed by Julie Taymor – firmly catches the audience’s attention and refuses to let go. Set in the Serengeti Plains and with an African rhythm firmly thumping at its heart, the story follows young lion Simba on his journey to become King of Pride Rock. Along the way he faces a number of obstacles – from his jealous, devious uncle Scar (played with charisma by Richard Hurst), to a trio of snarling hyenas and his own crippling self-doubt. Dashaun Young as Simba and Jean-Luc Guizone as his father Mufasa give sterling, passionate performances, while Matthew Forbes simply excels in his portrayal of Zazu, Mufasa’s aide and reluctant babysitter for Simba.

The beauty and enchanting nature of the production lies not only in the talented cast but also in the use of mesmerising masks and puppets, designed by Taymor and Michael Curry. There's an effortless harmony between performer and puppet, enhanced by the excellent choreography of Garth Fagan; the hunting dance of the lionesses is particularly graceful and hypnotic.

The iconic music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice is both fun and infectious – see Hakuna Matata and I Just Can’t Wait to Be King – as well as emotional and poignant (Can You Feel The Love Tonight and He Lives in You). Musical director and conductor Jonathan Gill leads a talented group of musicians who inject spirit and emotion into each scene. 

Overall, this is an engrossing, majestic production, brimming with generous, festive-sized portions of heart and pride.

Edinburgh Playhouse, until Sun 29 Mar 2020