By now, you would probably know that The Lion King musical is back in the Lion City after 7 years since it first heralded the grand opening of Marina Bay Sands. It remains, till today, Singapore’s longest running musical. Whether you’re planning to catch it for the first time or wondering if you should watch it again, this review is for you.
Singapore 2018 – is it ‘just as good’?
We watched The Lion King for the very first time in 2011 when it performed here as the opening musical for Marina Bay Sands. The performance then completely took us by surprise with its awe-inspiring creativity, sensitive and well-paced acting topped off with a musical score that is just as vibrant and moving as its plot. So naturally when we set out to catch 2018’s production, we had really high expectations. I dare say within a few minutes into the opening act, we were completed awed. In fact, after the entire 3-hour musical, we fell in love with the World’s number 1 musical all over again. Here’s why.
Stellar Cast & Acting:
2018’s version is helmed in person by legendary singer, songwriter of the original multi-award winning cast – Lebo M. The current international touring cast comprises a principal cast of seasoned Lion King actors who have played their roles internationally in Broadway and West End, no wonder we felt that this season’s production really had that ‘X-factor’.
The world of musical theatre has never been the same since The Lion King first debut in 1997, largely due to the use of creative puppetry and ‘parallel acting’ where the cast had to sing, act and, as a proxy to mimic the animals in the pride land. Some of these puppets are life-sized or even bigger (think elephants, rhinos and giraffes); others are intricately designed masks which Julie Taymor, the musical’s original award winning designer and director had a personal hand in. Together with the intricate ethnically inspired costumes, the casts truly made the characters come to life in its own unforgettable way.
There’s a lot packed in when turning a multi-award winning animation into live musical production. However, the cast did a brilliant job in marrying the action-packed scenes with those emotionally charged ones. We were tickled also by the excellently timed local slang, puns and jokes thrown-in into the script to instantly connect with the local Singapore audience. Kudos!
Despite the packed storyline, the pacing of the production was fast but well balanced. There was enough time for us to enjoy the excitement yet being able to empathise during those emotional moments in part due to the clever stage directions and creative use of lighting, music and props. Particularly so during the moments where the casts delivered their soulful soliloquys. What I found particularly moving was the scene where Rafiki was mourning – delivered completely in an African dialect but yet so artfully staged that we could connect with her.
Soaring Soundtracks & Music:
The award-winning score has got to be one of the best musical soundtracks ever produced. What an incredible auditory treat that we got to hear it performed live right here in the Sands Theatre, MBS. With critically acclaimed singers, songwriters and lyricists such as Lebo M, Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer having their hand in the scoring and performing of the musical’s soundtracks. The songs and tunes left us, spellbound in many ways and transported us not only to the African savannah but, more importantly, to the hearts of the characters. In addition, having two percussion members perform live their ethnic percussion at the sides of the stage gave another dimension to the musical experience.
1. Blackout Time: The show officially starts at 7:30pm and it is observed strictly as there is a ‘black-out’ time of about 20 minutes after the start of the musical as well as right after the 2nd half (interval) where audience members cannot enter the theatre. Please be seated way earlier than normal so that you do not miss the majestic opening scenes.
2. Duration of show: The entire show lasts about 150 minutes including a 20 minute interval . Do bring your children to the toilet before entering the theatre if you do not want to miss any good parts of the show, which are aplenty!
3. Suitable for young kids? The musical is targeted at families however given the duration of the show and the presence of some ‘darker’ scenes (e.g. The stampede scene and the hyenas scenes, parents may have to pre-empt the children). Our 4 year old sat was watching it for the first time. He sat riveted throughout the musical and enjoyed it TREMENDOUSLY.
4. Too childish for adults? No, no, no and No. The themes explored in this musical is universal with a profoundly moving storyline touching on the ideas of family, friendship, and reconciliation. Rated as the world’s No. 1 Musical with 90 million viewers and counting, it has won critical acclaims worldwide. It is also Singapore’s longest running musical and still packs full-houses in Broadway and the West End whenever it shows.
5. Pit stop: During the interval, bring the chilren to have a look at the orchestra pit as well as a closer look at the two percussion stations at both sides of the theatre. Do remember to say ‘Hi’ to Mike the conductor if you see him!
Show Trivia and Accolades (Excerpt from the media release):
The principal cast of THE LION KING includes Ntsepa Pitjeng who returns to the role of ‘Rafiki’, having performed the role in the USA, UK, Brazil, and Switzerland productions. Direct from London’s West End is Jonathan Andrew Hume who returns to the role of ‘Simba’ having played the role in 2011 in Singapore, and Mthokozisi Emkay Khanyile in the role of ‘Mufasa’.
Also from the United Kingdom is music theatre performer Antony Lawrence as ‘Scar’. Australian actor André Jewson features as ‘Zazu’; the charismatic New Zealand-born performer Jamie McGregor plays ‘Timon’ and South African favourite Pierre van Heerden returns as ‘Pumbaa’. Rounding out the principal cast are South African performers and up-and-coming star Noxolo Dlamini as ‘Nala’; Candida Mosoma returns to the role of ‘Shenzi’; Björn Blignaut as ‘Banzai’; and Mark Tatham as ‘Ed’.
Joining the company are six actors from the Philippines. Sharing the role of Young Simba are Julien Joshua M. Dolor Jr., Gabriel P. Tiongson, and Omar Sharief L. Uddin; sharing the role of Young Nala are Sheena Kirsten Bentoy, Uma Naomi Martin and Felicity Kyle Napuli.
Behind-the-scenes Facts & Figures:
- It took three years to develop THE LION KING from screen to stage
- In the animated movie, Rafiki The Baboon was presented as a male character but the musical changed into a strong female character
- The musical debuted in Minneapolis at The Orpheum Theatre in July 1997
- The phrase “Hakuna Matata” (meaning “No worries”) is mentioned 25 times in the show
- Julie Taymor is the first female director in Broadway history to win the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical (1998) for THE LION KING
- THE LION KING celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and is the third-longest running show on Broadway.
- To date THE LION KING has won more than 70 global theatrical awards
- The show won six Tony® Awards in 1998 for Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Choreography
- It took 34,000-man hours to build the masks and puppets for the original Broadway production
- There are more than 200 puppets in the show, including rod, shadow and full-sized puppet
“Just Can’t Wait to be King” Scene:
- The elephant nicknamed Bertha by the backstage crew in 1997 is the largest and longest animal measuring 4 meters long and 3 meters wide
- There are six indigenous African languages spoken in the show: Swahili, Zulu, Xhosa (the click language), Sotho, Tswana, Congolese
- THE LION KING has been translated into eight languages – Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Mandarin, Spanish, Portugese
- In 2011, THE LION KING became the longest running musical in Singapore’s theatrical entertainment history, playing to over 300,000 people during its eight-month season at Marina Bays Sands. After Singapore the international tour of THE LION KING heads to Korea and Taiwan with more engagements to be announced soon.
THE LION KING
Show Date: Wed, 27 June 2018 – Sun, 23 September 2018 (New shows added!)
Tue to Fri: 7.30pm | Sat: 2pm & 7.30pm | Sun: 1pm & 6pm
Venue: Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands
Ticket Pricing (Excludes Booking Fee): from SGD65 onwards