A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE LION KING (article first published : 2007-06-8)

The Lion King exploded onto the stage in the splendid new Teatro theatre at Montecasino at Wednesday night's official opening. Presented in this superb environment by Lebo M and Pieter Toerien in association with Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher, it is an explosive feel-good experience that should see people flocking to the ticket office. For those outside of Gauteng - find any excuse, however small, to get to that part of the world and catch this magical show!

With music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice and additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer, The Lion King has millions of fans the world over from the original film and the stage show. The latter celebrates its 10th anniversary on Broadway this year. A young child sitting behind me knew most of the main lines by heart!

The word “visionary” is much bandied-about these days but no-one is more deserving of this accolade than the incomparable Julie Taymor who directs the show and is also responsible for costume design, mask and puppet design. The costumes are simply magnificent in their concept, design and execution. In her book, Julie states that it was critical in the design concept ”not to hide the actor behind a whole mask or inside an animal bodysuit” as she wanted the human being to be an essential part of the character.

Working closely with Michael Curry on mask and puppet design Julie Taymor has used the essence of puppetry and shadow play to an impressive degree. This is particularly evident when perspectives change and one sees the characters close at hand or in the far distance. In a particularly brilliant sequence, Nala chases Pumbaa through the long grass across the expansive plains. The stampede of the wildebeest was one of the most impressive theatrical experiences I’ve seen to date. It is recommended that anyone interested in this extraordinary production, buy her book titled The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway in which she describes her ongoing experiences and vision for the show.

The choreography is magical with Garth Fagan accurately recreating the movements of the animals in question. I just loved the zebras! Richard Hudson’s scenic design is clear-cut and simple, skilfully using moving imagery rather than static sets. Donald Holder’s lighting is impressive, the highlight of the show obviously being the build-up to the appearance of the massive mask of Mufasa. Regular readers of these reviews will be interested to know that there was not a single complaint about the sound design which was perfectly placed by Steve Canyon Kennedy. Samples of Michael Ward’s stunning hair and make-up design could surely fill the entire exhibition space at the Durban Art Gallery!

The cast is out of the top drawer with Mark Rayment and Sello Maake-kaNcube heading the line-up as the two brothers, the evil Scar and the regal Mufasa. Durban-born Buyisile (Buyi) Zama is a wonderfully forthright Rafiki, a role she performed in Australia. Lyall Ramsden – plus feathered accessory – is a loquacious Zazu. Playing the delicious comedy duo, the meerkat Timon and warthog Pumbaa are Peter Mashigo and Pierre van Heerden. Pierre’s costume is a masterpiece with a huge snout, floppy tongue and scrabbling back legs. The three evil hyenas Shenzi, Ed and Banzai are scene stealers, played by Candida Mosoma, Michael Bagg and Simon Gwala, a former Durban actor who has worked on numerous Eager Artists productions.

Another former Durbanite and Durban Institute of Technology student, Andile Gumbi, takes the major role of adult Simba and brings much energy and dramatic pathos to the part. There are many other Durban connections in the cast which made this KZN reviewer very proud!

It wasn’t clear from the programme which young actors were playing the roles of Simba and Nala as children but they held their own among performers of very high stature.

The orchestra is conducted by Durban’s Lykele Temmingh, resident conductor of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. The pit musicians are supported by two solo musicians high above the stage adding percussion effects.

Sounds like a rave and too good to be true? Believe it! Admittedly, some of the support characters did not match the general high standard but I’ll put this down to what must have been incredible pressure on the cast for such a prestigious opening. This also couldn’t have been helped by the news that must have filtered backstage that the audience was stuck outside in long queues in what was a completely inexcusable hour-long hold-up in ticket allocation. As we eventually moved into the theatre, it went through my mind that nothing short of a minor miracle would turn this feeling of frustration and anger around. But, as soon as the lights dimmed, and that familiar opening phrase rang out, the audience went ballistic and all was forgotten!

Tsogo Sun is to be congratulated in creating the R130 million Teatro and thus achieving a milestone in the South African theatre industry. Accolades are due to co-producers, Lebo M and Pieter Toerien, with Bongani Tembe as associate producer. This production has been sponsored by Telkom in association with SABC, British Airways and Southern Sun. Good news is that thousands of young learners will have the opportunity to see the production. For many, it will be their first introduction to world-class theatre, thanks to Telkom sponsorship.

Anyone remotely interested in theatre technology should view this production as a Master Class. See it twice – first for the overall impact and the second time around to look at the costume and stage design, hair and make-up, stage mechanics and the impressive use of puppetry.

The Lion King is suitable for all ages and tickets range from R150 to R425. Booking is open at Computicket or the Montecasino box office through to September 9 (the run will increase if public demand so dictates). Performance times are Tuesday to Friday at 20h00, Saturday at 14h00 and 20h00; Sunday at 13h30 and 18h30. From July 17, the Sunday 18h30 performance will fall away. For group bookings of 20 tickets or more contact Geraldine on 011 511 1988 or e-mail geraldine@montetheatre.co.za – Caroline Smart




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart