Speaking of engineering, the wildebeest scene also really impressed me—in the film, that entire scene, which probably isn’t even five minutes, took something like two years to animate simply because there were so many wildebeests. On stage, it was really cool to see the way that the animals were set up to give the impression of an overwhelming stampede without actually needing three hundred actors. I was really impressed.
Let’s see… songs! I really enjoyed the rendition of “He Lives in You” performed during the “look at the stars” scene between Simba and Mufasa—I’ve really, really loved this song in The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (not sure for which came first though, the sequel or the musical) and I think it’s a really enchanting song about heritage and guidance and spirituality and it seriously was amazing. Mufasa nailed it (as did his backup singers, of course).
And “Be Prepared,” “The Circle of Life,” “Shadowland,” and all the other songs were good, too. Just that “He Lives in You” shall always be my favorite.
More than that, I really liked the exploration of the female identity onstage, too. Of course, female lions do the hunting, and I really enjoyed the lionesses’ hunting scene, but there were other aspects, too. For example, many of the story’s main events are instigated by male characters—Simba, Scar, Mufasa, Timon, and Pumbaa especially—and considering how similar the lionesses are, how little they seem to do compared to the top guys, it seems easy to assume that they’re just extras. But that’s not how I saw it. The lionesses had many important roles without which Simba would not have returned to Pride Rock.
- When the lionesses asked in unison, “So, where is this ‘cool place’?” they demonstrated a role of motherhood, but distinctly in a demonstration of protection and guardianship.
- When Mufasa died, it was the lionesses who cried—it was the lionesses who mourned (also, Rafiki). In mourning they remembered, and in remembering, it was they who held onto the values of balance while Scar was in power.
- Thus, in holding onto those values, it was the lionesses who passed on that value of balance to Nala, so that when they and Rafiki were forced to send her off, she too would remember her pride and the identity that came with it. No matter where she went, Nala would still be woven into the fabric of their tradition, which would be important because…
- It is Rafiki and Nala who bring Simba back home again. Simba has forgotten his identity and his responsibility and it takes the women who have remembered their identities and traditions to knock sense into him and restore him to his throne.
And sure, I totally just made it sound like the role of the lionesses completely falls into that “sphere of domesticity” nonsense, but I think the real point the musical is making is not that the lionesses belong in distinctly familial roles, but rather that everyone belongs in distinctly familial roles, and the two characters who abandon their family—Scar and Simba—are really the ones who makes things the way they aren’t supposed to be. Bottom line, the best thing about the lionesses and Rafiki is that they have a distinct and important identity integral to the Circle of Life and they’re the only ones who manage to not screw things up in the whole musical. Plus, I loved their costumes.
Lastly, a shout-out to Zazu for the slight alteration of his annoying song from “It’s a Small World” to “Let It Go.” I think every parent in that theater felt Scar’s pain.
IT WAS SO GOOD. I could not have asked for a better birthday gift (although an early gift, to be fair). I have talked so much about it, though. Just leave knowing that the king has returned.
I could not think of a more inspiring way to send you off.