With fans of the Disney musical, The Lion King, having to wait over two years to witness this spectacular show at the Bradford Alhambra, the atmosphere in the theatre was electric as we took our seats.
A parade of animals walked down the side of the stalls as they moved towards the stage, a dramatic yet unusual sight and certainly a memorable introduction to the show.
The story of how the young lion grows up to become king has been told many times, however, the show seems to offer something new each time I see it. There is always so much going on in the background of the scenes that you might miss something.
While often played by a man, the role of wise old Rafiki was played authentically by Thandazile Soni, with her presence on the stage commanding in every appearance.
The comic timing and one-liners of Pumbaa, the giant warthog, played by Carl Sanderson and the cheeky meerkat, Timon, played by Alan McHale had the audience in stitches, bringing some lighter moments to the evening.
A stellar cast
In the film version of The Lion King, Zazu, the uptight hornbill, is never taken seriously due to his size. However, his words of wisdom seemed to be more pertinent when played by Matthew Forbes, who brought a sense of authority to his performance at the Alhambra.
Richard Hurst and Jean-Luc Guizonne as Scar and Mufasa perfectly portrayed the animosity between the warring brothers. The death scene in which Mufasa is killed by a herd of buffaloes was a moving moment that was executed brilliantly, with expert production adding to the remarkable performance by the actors on stage.
The three menacing hyenas played by Rebecca Omogbehin, Simon Trinder and Owain Rhys Davies had younger members of the audience on the edge of their seats – all that was missing was the pantomime booing and hissing whenever they came on stage!
The role of the future king, Simba, was in good hands when played by Amari James – his youthful energy and innocence contrasted well with that of the older Simba, played by Stephenson Arden-Sodje. Serenna Hunte also shone as the young lioness, Nala. The older Nala was played by South African born Nokwanda Khuzwago who brought her strong character to the fore.
The puppet work of the animals was extremely life-like with their costumes and movements all being part of the magic of Disney. The songs also carry that magic throughout the show, though there are a few that you may not know if you have not seen The Lion King before. While most people will know Elton John’s, ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’, the entire soundtrack is worthy of the same acclaim.
Playing at the Alhambra until end of May
The Lion King has drama and sadness alongside light-hearted moments that culminated in a happy ending and a show that I would highly recommend you see. As the audience gave a standing ovation, there was a sense that the two-year wait had been worth it. A roaring success indeed.
The Lion King runs at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until 28 May 2022.