Disney’s The Lion King returns to Philadelphia

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Returning for the first time in a decade to Philadelphia, the touring company of Disney’s The Lion King will be at the Academy of Music until September 10. 
After twenty-five years on Broadway, having premiered in November of 1997, The Lion King returns to Philadelphia for a month-long run for the first time in nearly a decade.  The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards, in addition to numerous other awards around the world, as well as a popular 2019 film version. Elton John and Tim Rice, along with a host of others, have created a musical which has been enjoyed by millions, and is still currently on Broadway. 
The large cast includes Peter Hargrave as Scar, Gerald Ramsey as Mufasa, and Darian Sanders as Simba. A large contingent of Specialties includes performers who are shadow puppets, “Circle of Life” vocalists, Fireflies, and many more. The live orchestra was led by Conductor Karl Shymanovitz. Choreography is by Garth Fagan, who won a 1998 Tony Award for his work. Julie Taymor is the Tony-Award-winning Director.
Many may have already seen The Lion King on Broadway, or during its last run here in Philadelphia, but it does remain an engaging spectacle filled with costumes, vocalists, and special effects which still thrill in live performance. It is well worth a return visit and definitely deserves a first viewing by those who have yet to experience it. 
For the press opening early in the run, the evening performance was filled with toddlers, and small children all under age six. An amazing feat considering the musical began after most of them should have already been sound asleep. The little tykes were animated throughout. A few were frightened by the Elephant Graveyard special effects, causing them to burst into tears and loud sobbing. One young man who seemed to be no older than three continued bawling loudly long into the scene. Parents, grandparents, and adults be forewarned that the vivid effects might be overwhelming for those little ones who rely upon your sound judgement.
It’s interesting to note that Scar, the evil brother to the Lion King, is given star billing as the villain. As with many Disney villains, he appears to be a conniving, sniping sort, with arch line delivery including a curiously posh British accent. He thinks that what he needs most is a wife to make him lovable to his subjects. No one volunteers to inform him that a wife would require more than a shampoo, cut, and styling of her mane. A spoiler alert is in order since after his murderous exploits, and subjugating his people, he does meet a grisly end as he is consumed by his hyena sycophants. 
Fear not! The joyous conclusion of The Lion King provides ample opportunity to banish any unpleasantness, as dancers dance and singers sing, and puppets and characters prance about memorably as a new, tiny Lion King is born, reiterating the theme of the memorable song, “Circle of Life.”
When you go: The Academy of Music is handicapped friendly, as it provides a side entrance with a ramp for easy access. One can also avoid standing in a queue since early access within reason is permitted. 
For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit the box office, phone 215-893-1999,  or online at  www.kimmelculturalcampus.org .

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