Review: “The Lion King” Reigns at the Hollywood Pantages

Gerald Ramsey as Musafa in "The Lion King."

“The Lion King,” has been captivating audiences around the world for over two decades now, winning six Tony Awards® including Best Musical. A feast for the senses, the beloved musical also boasts an evocative book by by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, and a stirring score by the legendary duo, Sir Elton John (currently on his farewell tour) and Tim Rice.

“The Lion King.”

Based on 1994’s beloved Disney animated film, the musical follows the journey of a young lion prince named Simba as he grows up in the African savanna and learns to embrace his destiny as king. The story is set against a backdrop of vibrant African landscapes and populated by a cast of colorful characters, including the wise Rafiki, a female mandrill who serves as narrator; the sassy meerkat Timon (played by the incredibly talented Nick Cordileone); and the lovable warthog, Pumbaa (played by William John Austin on opening night).

Circle of LIfe. Company of “The Lion King.” Photo: Matthew Murphy

One of the most striking aspects of “The Lion King” is the visual spectacle — a cornucopia of color, costumes and creatures. And as if that isn’t enough, the show is filled with unforgettable musical moments, from the opening number, “Circle of Life” with a glorious sunrise over the savanna, to “He Lives in You,” during which shimmering stars and images transform into Mufasa’s face in the sky. The costumes, designed by Tony Award-winner, Julie Taymor, are a work of art in their own right, blending elements of African tribal dress with stylized elements to utterly mesmerize.

“At its heart, “The Lion King” is an epic about love, friendship, duty, family, and the importance of confronting one’s fears to become a leader.”

Gugwana Diamini as Rafiki in “The Lion King.”

And let’s not forget the musical score by Elton John and Tim Rice, a fusion of African-inspired rhythms and Western-style pop ballads including the catchy and upbeat “Hakuna Matata,” and the emotional ballad “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” These melodies, combined with the shining performance of the cast, notably the young Simba (Jaylen Lyndon Hunter) and Nala (Scarlett London Diviney) help to bring the story to life in a truly epic way. Don’t be fooled into thinking this one’s just for the kids. At its heart, “The Lion King” is an epic about love, friendship, duty, family, and the importance of facing one’s fears to become a leader. It is a timeless tale, one that is sure to resonate with audiences of all ages and leave a profound, lasting impression.

— Rosane Grimberg

The Lion King plays at the Hollywood Pantages through March 26th. Tickets HERE.