Monday, January 12, 2015

Hail "The Lion King" at Broward Center

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"The Lion King" Rules Broward Center

By Skip Sheffield

The best seats in the house are on the aisle for “The Lion King,” playing through Feb. 1 at Broward Center for the Arts.
That’s where actors and amazing puppets make their entrance in a procession of animals and actors that goes down the aisles and up onto the stage. It's a show that starts with a peak and stays there.
I was in the second row, aisle seat for this spectacular pageant of exquisite costumes, clever giant puppets, muscular male dancers, sinewy, lithe female dancers and pounding, propulsive music.
“Lion King” is a feast for the eyes and ears. In a literal surround-sound effect there are two drummers stationed at the lower front balcony of both sides of the theater. Percussion is a large part of the score, by Elton John and Tim Rice. The real genius of the production is Julie Taymor, who became the first woman to win the Tony Award as Best Director in 1998. She also designed the show's costumes, co-designed the masks and puppets with Michael Curry, and contributed to the score's African-influenced music and lyrics.
Though it is based on a 1994 Walt Disney animated movie aimed at the younger audience, "Lion King" has moral lessons pertinent to all ages. Basically it is a coming-of-age story about Simba (Jordan A. Hall alternating with Tre Jones as a cub and Jelani Remy as a regal (and well-muscled) adult.
It is also a love story between Simba and his lioness girlfriend Nala (Ny Cymone Carver alternating with Tyah Skye as a cub; Nia Holloway as an adult).
There is plenty of humor in the story of Simba's parents Mufasa (L. Stephen Taylor) and Sarabi (Tryphena Wade) and their madcap court, which includes a wisecracking bird-like advisor Zazu (Drew Hirschfield); the meerkat Timon (Tony Freeman) and the pudgy warthog Pumbae (Ben Lipitz). There is pathos too as Simba leaves his kingdom up his father's passing.
Every Disney story needs a villain. This one has a dandy one in Mufsa's scheming younger brother Scar (Patrick R. Brown) and his ravenous hyena confederates.
This is the third or fourth "Lion King" I've seen since it first came to South Florida 12 years ago. This may be the best one yet, with four of the principals coming directly from Broadway. No wonder "The Lion King" has become the highest-grossing ($6.3 billion and counting) title in entertainment history.
Tickets are $43.37-$117.71. Call 800-745-3000 or go to www.broadwayacrossamerica.com or www.browardcenter.org.


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