Sometimes the circle of life whimpers.
Sometimes it whispers.
When it comes to The Lion King, it roars.
The mammoth Disney musical — the story of lion cub Simba, who must avenge his father's death — has returned to Pittsburgh. This PNC Broadway Across America touring production is a bit smaller-scale, but it's still a mane event.
Much of the show's success will always be attributed to Julie Taymor's innovative and ingenious costume design. Strip away the skins and stripes, and this is a show about animals. The actors must appear as animal-like as possible — and each rhino and zebra and hyena and elephant and gazelle and cheetah and wildebeest costume carefully showcases both man and beast.
The entire cast was top-notch, but L. Steve Taylor leads the pack as Lion King Mufasa. Here too is where Taymor's costume genius is at its best: Taylor's mask can either rest on his forehead or cover his face. Resting, Mufasa is regal, dignified, powerful. Mask comes up, and the father of Simba is sensitive and vulnerable. Such subtle symbolism proves, especially on repeated viewings, the brilliance of the work.
Sets are simple, almost minimalist, but serve the action superbly.
There wasn't one glitch to bitch about on opening night.
Well, maybe one.
Disney + animals = perfect kids' show, no?
Every LK audience I have been part of teems with very young children, but this is not kiddie fare. Blame it on the 1994 animated film, perhaps on Elton John and Tim Rice's bouncy music, and almost certainly on the Stan-and-Ollie comedy team of meerkat Timon and warthog Pumbaa, who is ostracized from the animal world for his excessive farting. Still, animals rushing down the Benedum aisles, fireflies dancing in the night sky and pop-up cacti can keep small attention spans riveted only for small amounts of time.
Parents also need to remember there's a dark side of life, even in the animal kingdom, and death and evil and murder and revenge will need to be explained on the drive home to Sewickley.
Perhaps that's where a reprise of "Hakuna Matata" comes in?