Theater Review: 'Lion King' plays through Sept. 4 in Chicago

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The long-running Broadway hit, The Lion King, returns to the Cadillac Palace Theatre for another guaranteed sold-out run. Comprising every aspect of a hit musical, the Disney-designed production brings families, ranging from pre-schoolers to grandparents, to see the familiar story of parental loss and the triumph of good over evil.

The pattern has achieved success, becoming a marketing marvel. Since Snow White, the Disney corporation has sold billions of dollars in films, videos, and every possible toy and artifact, representing the adaptations of the childhood stories that have become an integral part of the culture.

Their financial success enables them to engage top-notch artists to design the stage productions that continue to run all over the world. The Lion King represents the epitome of Disney. As the show opens, a parade of performers cleverly costumed by Julie Taymor as every bird and animal living in the African jungle and savanna, fill every aisle and proceed to the stage to a standing ovation from the audience. Based on Indonesian puppetry, Taymor’s work is the high point of the musical. Choreographer Garth Fagan contributes another unequaled aspect to the show. His innovative and creative choreography gives The Lion King a quality deeply appreciated by adults in the audience.

Gugwana Dlamini is Rafiki, the griot narrating the details of Simba’s life. Coming from the London production, she was born in South Africa, and her atonal songs give us the musical base for the entire show. The children, Simba and Nala, are double cast, and as they reach adulthood, are played by Wallace Smith and Ta’Rea Campbell. Larry Yando is the evil uncle, Scar, and his cohorts, The Hyenas, seem to dominate the stage. There were just too many of them.

As Disney World is designed for children, so is The Lion King. Be prepared for continual comments from the toddlers. Playing through Sept. 4, 2005, tickets can be purchased through Broadway in Chicago, (312-920-1400) or through Ticketmaster. Premium Ticket Packages, priced at $127.50, include center orchestra seating, a souvenir program book and Lion King merchandise.

From the July 20-26, 2005, issue

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