The lion sleeps tonight
So. We just got back from The Lion King.
I really don’t know if I can describe it. The opening scene with “A Circle Of Life” set the stage, with the sunrise being breathtaking, and the gazelles and giraffes and elephants were imaginative and brilliant. The wildebeest stampede was spectacular. The scene where Rafiki shows Simba his father’s reflection took, I think, the entire audience by surprise, and was probably one of the most memorable visuals in a show that’s full of them. All I can say is: Highly recommended.
Clearly, the show is built on spectacle. It’s aiming to amaze you, and it does. But all that spectacle wraps a decent plot, and the huge theatrical bits are balanced by some scenes as simple as one or two characters on an empty stage, allowing the audience and actors to focus on the dialogue and characters without being distracted by all the costumes and sets.
The show itself follows the movie very closely – I don’t know it really well, but I think dialogue is word-for-word in places. A couple minor scenes were missing, and some scenes and songs were added, but if you know the plot of the movie, you know the plot of the musical…and you know some of the jokes, too. The play is written to still be entertaining to people that have seen the movie – you may grin slightly when you hear a familiar joke, but then laugh out loud at how the characters react to it.
The show is even a little self-referential; at one point, Zazu looks at the audience and remarks, “That wasn’t in the cartoon.” Later on, Timon actually thanks the scenery for moving into a convenient location. (In that scene, and many others, the scenery is actually actors dressed up as bits of grass or jungle plants or whatever, allowing them to move around the stage as appropriate for the scene.)
The different animals were realized in different ways. The lions were basically people, with tails and lion “masks” that sat above their head, so that they didn’t actually block the actors’ faces…but when the actors went down on all fours, the masks cleverly fell into place in front of them so that they looked like pretty convincing lions. Zazu was, basically, a man with a puppet. Timon was a sort of puppet-costume thing; hard to describe. And so on. The most impressive were the giraffes and elephants, which were nearly life-size.
But describing the costumes, or the sets, or anything, can’t convey what happens when it all gets put together. There were weak spots (I felt that the boy who played Simba as a cub had a weak singing voice, particularly during “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, and I thought that Mufasa was rushing some of his lines in Act 1; Pamela was disappointed with Scar), but they were vastly outweighed by the rest of it. The tickets worked out to about a dollar a minute; there were very few minutes that weren’t worth a dollar, and many that were worth more. (Big thumbs up to Pamela for getting us fantastic seats.) I know this is useless advice to most people reading this, but if you ever get the chance to see The Lion King on Broadway, do it.
Of course, I’ve now skipped over everything between lunch (where I ended the previous post) and the show. But that’s ok; there wasn’t much. We wandered past Carnegie Hall and through Bloomingdale’s (two more things to check off on the New York Tourist list), on our way to one of Pamela’s chosen destinations: a little cafe (?) named Serendipity 3. It’s an important location in the movie Serendipity, and she wanted to visit. We ordered, and split, a frozen hot chocolate and an ice-cream sundae (hot fudge, vanilla, chocolate, and mint chocolate chip). They were huge. And just like I can’t describe how The Lion King looked, I can’t describe how this tasted. Totally delicious – worth the walk.
We rounded out the day with an exercise in self-hypnotism: hanging around Times Square after dark. The phrase is misleading; Times Square at night is a lot of things, but “dark” isn’t one of them. You could read by the light of all the signs. And they flashed, and pulsed, and scrolled, and showed video, and did everything they could to out-shine the signs next to them. It was pretty overwhelming, all told, but definitely worth seeing (much more so than Times Square during the day).
Anyway, that was today. Plans for tomorrow include Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Ground Zero.
By the way: thanks to those who have been leaving comments. While in a lot of ways I write this blog for myself (to get the vacation and my impressions down while they’re still fresh in my mind) it’s always nice to know that other people are actually reading (and hopefully enjoying) it too.