Monday, April 30, 2018

The Lion King in Manila!

I am very happy that I finally got to watch The Lion King with my family. I bought our tickets several months ago and I had been looking forward to seeing this show since then. While I did get to see it in London back in 2001, it's always a different experience seeing a major musical in the Philippines and with your family.

Once the news came out about a year ago that The Lion King would be shown here, I decided to start saving money. I wanted to get the expensive orchestra seats, specifically orchestra aisle seats, because I knew that some "animals" would be parading down the aisles during the opening Circle of Life and I wanted us to be up close to them when they passed by. My research told me that the elephant would pass by the left aisle (left when you are facing the stage) so I made sure to get seats there. I gotta say, I was really excited when the elephant passed by. :)

The great thing about being seated at the aisle is that a few more performers do pass by. Another highlight for me was during the opening number of the second act right after the intermission, several performers walk down the aisles and stand in different parts of the venue. One of them stood right next to us and while we could hear the entire ensemble sing in harmony, we could also hear her voice quite clearly and it was beautiful.

I really wanted my family to see The Lion King because it is such an incredible production. The opening Circle of Life just so powerful and jaw-dropping, it is almost worth the price of admission. The animal costumes are so beautifully and intelligently designed and the performers move the same way that the animals do. The cheeatah, the giraffes, the gazelles, the elephant, Zazu, and all the animals were all just so incredible. Add to that the incredible voices and the brilliant stage design and colors and you have a life-affirming opening number. Words can't really do justice to its brilliance so it's better to see it in action. This video of Circle of Life is from the Life Helpmann Awards. Check it out.

video uploaded by Thais Persico

Other highlights from a production value standpoint include the stampede sequence and the scene where Mufasa's spirit talks to Simba. Musically, while I do love the songs from the movie, the songs that were added to the musical that weren't in the film give the live show even more soul - Shadowland, Endless Night, and He Lives in You. (I want to get the CD of the musical because I really do love these additional songs.)

What made The Lion King in Manila even more special to me is that we got a South African cast. Given how the musical is set in Africa, having a cast that is mostly from that continent just made the story and the performances even more meaningful and gave the show even more soul.

Speaking of the cast, I thought they were all fantastic. Ntsepa Pitjeng as Rafiki, Calvyn Grandling as the adult Simba, Noxolo Dlamini as the adult Nala, Antony Lawrence as Scar, Jamie McGregor as Timon, Pierre Van Heerden as Pumbaa, and Andrew Jewson as Zazu along with the rest of the cast were all superb. The revelation to me were the Filipino kids in the cast, Julien Joshua M. Dolor Jr. as the young Simba and Uma Naomi Martin as the young Nala, both of whome were amazing. I also love how the cast injected some Filipino words and even Filipino cultural items into the dialogue, specifically Timon's.

I have now see all but one of the musicals that had an impact on me twice: Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Wicked, and now this. (I have even seen Chicago twice as well.) The only one I haven't seen twice is Miss Saigon. I am hoping it gets shown here again. If not, maybe I will get a chance to see it again somewhere in the world.

The Lion King has extended its Manila run until May 27. Tickets are going by very quickly. If you want to see it while it is still showing, go get your tickets now.

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