A visit to London is not complete without an expensive coffee from an "on fleek" cafe and cheeky trip to the West End for a show. If you're anything like me, there is always a long list of shows you want to see, but when time and budget are limited, there are a few classics that you just refuse to miss. For me, one of those shows has been The Lion King.
Disney's The Lion King has been on stage for the last 19 years, meaning it first hit the West End five years after it was released in cinemas! When something has been around that long and is still able to pull in sell-out crowds you know they're on to something good!
I've waited very patiently, since arriving in the UK after a trip to Africa, to book tickets to the show. As part of my recent birthday celebrations, my husband went above and beyond and secured us both tickets to a mid-week showing. Being the thoughtful man that he is he even went as far as springing for expensive tickets, which he explained to me was for three reasons:
First, they included lounge access, a glass of champagne* in the interval, a tub of ice cream, savoury nibbles and a place we could keep our bags so they weren't stowed at our feet. I felt extra glam indulging in all this on the night!
Second, they included a copy of the programme. It's beautiful and full of interesting information about the entire cast. We learned that "grown-up Simba" is from New Zealand, just like us!
Third, they gave us access to the seats that are in the best position to enjoy the entire all-encompassing performance. And it was incredible.
Now, I'm told there really are no *bad* seats at the Lyceum. However, from the second the curtain raises and Rafiki belts out that familiar "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba ... (Zulu for "here comes a lion, father") to the very last thing you see, the action is all-encompassing and probably best viewed from those seats in the stalls. If you're up too high you won't get to experience half of the artistry that happens throughout the show. There are voices from the boxes, animals on the stage and in the aisles and lights and costumes galore. For that reason alone, I would recommend getting tickets in the stalls or in one of the boxes.
And, from that "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba..." the hairs on the back of my neck and down my arms stood on end. The music is beautiful. While the West End version differs musically from the film*, the old favourites, "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Can't Wait to be King" all feature. The live orchestra, the drummers, and the ensemble make the music feel full and fat and juicy—you almost want to reach out and touch it.
When you take a break from being aurally delighted, you realise the visual feast taking place in front of you. Incredibly detailed costumes and sets—my favourites were the giraffes and the ensembles' grassland outfits.
The music, the costumes, the ever-changing background, the ambient sounds... everything felt rich, sumptuous, and somehow wild. I envy the team of people who created this whole scene in their imaginations, before turning it into a well-oiled reality. I feel like I was able to enjoy an extra layer of delight having recently been in African and experienced the wild Serengeti.
So, should you see it?
Absolutely! Go crazy. Take me with you!
In all seriousness, this one is suitable for the whole family. It's funny, loving, warm, and even the sad and scary bits are still beautiful and interesting. The wildebeest migration scene was crazy cool! Just remember it's a long show (like almost three hours including intermission), so younger viewers might wilt a bit in evening showings. Oh, and there are sections in Swahili that might need a general "translation" for those younger members too.
If you go, and I hope you do, prepare to be amazed and inspired and to not stop singing "The Circle of Life" for at least a week! I'll be booking in to see it again before my time in London is up.
Next though, Aladdin...
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