As someone who grew up in a house where sports were always more valued than any sort of art I never had a chance to immerse myself in any performative arts. While I did learn how to play a song or two on the tin whistle, that was about as far as I got in the music department, and my theater skills were only broken out when I really needed, something, or had to lie. Needless to say, I’m not a theatre major and certainly don’t have the credentials to review one of the best broadway musicals ever performed. However, in truth, it doesn’t take a genius to know that the Lion King is an absolute masterpiece, from the music to the costume to the set design. Every minor detail worked together in a perfect harmony that made even the most naive theater spectators shed a tear or two. The beauty of it all was how immersed you let as you watched a little Simba grapple with the loss of his mentor and father only to grow into a mighty king.
Earlier this week I saw the traveling broadway musical production of the Lion King at the Saenger theatre in the great city of New Orleans. Now as a resident of this city it’s easy to say that some of the best music live here and were born here, needless to say, the people of New Orleans aren’t easily impressed when it comes to music. They know good music when they hear it and bad music just as easily. This is what makes this timeless production so fascinating in a city full of iconic music, a young Simba brought tears to our eyes. The live orchestra allowed the musicians to showcase their immense skulls, while the actors had the tiring job of not only singing their hearts out but also taking on the demeanors of these wild animals.
Each actor not only played their character but embraced it. With the lions pouncing ready for the attack at any moment the hyenas utilize their hunched posture to truly capitalize on their level nature. The intricate costumes of each charter never lead me to believe that there wasn’t a person underneath that ingenious zebra costume, but that seemed to be the intention. The mix of human presence with these detailed animal costumes forces the audience to wonder what the line between nature and mankind truly is and how it can become so blurred. Furthermore, I believe this speaks to the relatability of the musical, as the sadness created by Mufasa’s death and Simba’s inability to properly cope with it seems all too familiar with hose greaving the loss of a loved one.
It is within this relatability that we can look inward and realize that the circle of life involves the joining of making and nature in order to realize that there is nothing so fundamentally different between humans and wild animals. Perhaps there are elements of the human race that do not feel disconnected from this idea of the wild animal that may still live within us.