Sep 22, 2011

[Theater] The Lion King (Base Entertainment Singapore)

The Lion King (Base Entertainment Singapore)Many years ago when my partner was in New York, he had wanted to catch a screening of this particular play. However things didn't work out for him, and so to some extent it was a bit of a hang-up for him - yet another of life's unresolved bucket list items that we tend to carry around with us all through our lives.

Last month, we found out that the run of this play over at the Marina Bay Sands theater in Singapore had been extended yet again. Now given our schedules had finally freed up enough to make planning an out of the country trip like this possible, we decided to take the gamble and started making the travel arrangements to head over to Singapore.

So this play helped mark our first overseas vacation together, and I can't think of a better way to commemorate things. It's a stellar play no matter how you look at it and Base Entertainment made sure to put up a production worthy of the brand. And with luck, this review will help break down why it was such an amazing show and worth flying out of the country for.


The Lion King is a 1997 Broadway musical based on the 1994 animated feature film of the same name. Produced by Disney Theatrical, the play was originally directed by Julie Taymor using the music and lyrics of Elton John and Tim Rice together with the musical score of Hans Zimmer. It is now Broadway's seventh longest running show in history and had won six Tony Awards in 1998.

Following the story of the original animated film, the play begins the birth of Simba to King Mufasa (Jean-Luc Guizonne AKA Jee-L) and Queen Sarabi . The young cub is presented to the gathered animals with a few hold-outs who skip the ceremony such as Scar (Patrick Brown), Mufasa's brother and thus Simba's uncle. As Simba (Leon L. Matawaran / Lance Reblando / Warren David V. Saga) grows up, his father educates him regarding the circle of life and how everything must be in balance.

But Scar has plans of his own for Pride Rock and manages to convince Simba to go to an elephant graveyard in a territory that is outside their borders. Thus despite his father's warnings, Simba manages to get him and his friend Nala (Cristina de Leon / Nikki Samonte / Myka Torre) in danger due to the hyenas Shenzi (Lavina Williams), Banzai (Simon Gwala) and Ed (Michael Bagg) who had been lying in wait. While Mufasa manages to rescue the two lion cubs, the experience makes him worried for Simba and the kind of king is will grow up to be. And at the same time, Scar continues his plans to takeover the kingdom with the help of the hyenas.

Actress Buyi Zama as Rafiki in Taiwan.Image via WikipediaNow I'd love to give credit to the individual actors as deserving as they all are, but admittedly I have no clear way of verifying who played what on the night that we watched. Even with the playbill, there are a lot of alternates involved in the cast and there were no helpful notices or fliers given out at the Marina Bay Sands theater to indicate who was playing the principal roles during the night, which was a little odd. So pardon my excessive citations or any instances when I may actually misrepresent which performance we watched.

First of all, the overall majesty of the play was definitely a sight to behold. The various animals were beautifully brought to life with a variety of divers puppets that found different ways to represent each creature and allowing each actor to given the animal life. Giraffes were actors on delicate stilts to given them the towering height they needed. Elephants and rhinos were more complex two-person operations that helped simulate each animal with a level of realism I didn't think possible. The list goes on and on.

The principal actors also has costumes of equal complexity and beauty that still afforded them the range of motion to be able to fully express and act out their characters. More complex examples include the smaller puppet representing Zazu (Lyall Ramiden) and of course the comical pair of Timon (Jamie McGregor) and Pumbaa (Pierre Van Heerden). And I'll admit that I'll never quite get over the lunging headpiece that Scar had to manipulate all throughout the show.

The sets were pretty amazing and my kudos go out to Marina Bay Sands for creating a theater that fully supported the complex set pieces involved in this production. Watching the various scenes from the movie come to life such as the jutting crag that made Pride Rock so iconic or the twists and turns of the elephant graveyard - words do little justice in explaining how everything came about.

There was a lot of great talent in this production across the board. Rafiki (Gugwana Dlamini) had a powerful voice that reached right into your heart when she'd take the stage and the ensemble was pivotal for keeping each scene in harmony with the original vision of the cartoon. I wasn't that big a fan of young Simba though - young Nala clearly upstaged him and had a much stronger personality. I suppose it's the challenge of working with such young talent - it's not always easy for them to fully commit to the role and truly become the characters they portray.

The play had a nice local touch to it as well, with the more comical characters making references only meaningful to locals. It helped keep the play fresh and the audience a bit more involved given the international talent involved in this production.

If anything, the overall play was epic and world-class for sure - a testament to Base Entainment in their efforts to bring the Broadway-quality theater experience to Asia. And for this I am eternally grateful.

The play had a few quirks here and there that come with the translation from film to stage, but I'll take that. Overall, this was still an amazing experience and I'm glad that we made the trip. Thus The Lion King still gets 5 prancing animal puppets out of a possible 5 just for making me walk away from the production smiling from ear to ear.







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2 comments:

elmerlovesoreo said...

I'm not into theater but hopefully, I could watch a good show soon :)

rOckY said...

You should give it a shot! Perhaps when Oreo is in town.

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