One of the best things about the Lion King West End production is that it takes all the Lion King characters and songs that we know and love and expands on them, all with beautiful costumes, choreography and puppetry that take the stage show into a whole other world.
There are 50 cast members and a backstage team of 100 to make the magic each performance, and it took director Julie Taymor and her team 37,000 hours to build all the original masks and puppets. But that vision isn’t the only thing Julie brought to the stage show! It’s not a direct facsimile of the Disney film on stage, but a reimagination, complete with twists on the beloved characters and new original songs.
The whole story kicks off with Simba, Lion King-in-waiting’s, birth. We all know Simba as the overly-enthusiastic, naive little cub who’s forced to grow up fast when his father dies at the hands of his uncle. In the staged version of The Lion King, Simba has a whole new song! ‘Endless Night’ is all about him coming to terms with his father’s death and his new responsibilities. It puts even more emphasis on how his loss has impacted Simba and what he must overcome internally to lead the pride.
The original Lion King, Mufasa, is a fearless and fair ruler, whose downfall is putting too m uch trust in his brother who betrays him. In the stage show, we see more of his relationship with Simba, with extra songs ‘The Morning Report’ and ‘They Live In You’. His importance to Simba can’t be understated and his reappearance as a vision in Act II has a significant impact in inspiring Simba’s courage to return to his rightful throne.
We can all picture that iconic scene from the film where Rafiki holds up a baby Simba to present him to the crowds of animals below. And don’t worry, the stage show spares nothing when it comes to the big opening number – it’s everything you’d want it to be and more as you’re introduced to all the incredible puppets and characters.
But did you know that Rafiki is actually based on the Sangoma, a healing and storytelling figure in traditional South African cultures? The stage version of Rafiki is female, and has a bigger role in the tale than the film. She takes on a narrator function and has an incredible new song, Rafiki Mourns, sung in Zulu.
Lionesses in the Lion King – much like in nature – are the backbone of the pride. With additional scenes for Nala and the lionesses we get to witness their graceful hunt through an amazingly choreographed dance, where the pride acts as one to capture dinner. Nala’s place within the tribe is explored more in the stage show, and the other lionesses give them her blessing to adventure out of the Pride Lands.