Last Friday, U-Program took students to see Disney’s “The Lion King” at Proctor’s Theater. Since its debut on Broadway in 1997, “The Lion King” has continued to be a roaring success, grossing over $1 billion and is Broadway’s third longest-running show, having over six thousand performances under its belt.
“The Circle of Life” opened the performance, with Rafiki’s famous belting of “Nants’ Ingonyama” introducing the show. Mukelisiwe Goba portrayed Rafiki in Friday night’s show and gave a strong performance.
Although there was some static from the mic stifling her big opening note, Goba held on and captivated the audience, especially in the second act where her rendition of “He Lives in You” engulfed the theater in Simba’s powerful turning point.
The actor who played young Simba also gave a strong performance. He was engaging and playful, and although he didn’t quite manage to convey the heavy emotions needed during Mufasa’s death scene, he nevertheless brought great energy to the role of the royal lion cub.
Mufasa, portrayed by Gerald Ramsey, had a great voice and managed to build a powerful connection with the audience in a short amount of stage time. Ramsey embodied the mightiness of a ruler while balancing it with the gentleness of a father.
The actor who gave the strongest performance was Patrick R. Brown in his portrayal of Scar. Brown also played Scar in the original Broadway cast of “The Lion King.” His execution of the role was gladly received.
Brown’s comedic timing was spot on and he did an incredible job of being deliciously evil. His solo, “Be Prepared” was riveting and provided a nice edge to an otherwise very sweet musical.
Although Brown’s performance was strong, Aaron Nelson, who portrayed adult Simba, was not as strong as his costars.
While his performance was adequate, he did not give us as much of a sense of emotion as his counterpart, Nia Holloway, who portrayed adult Nala. As Nala, Holloway gave a beautiful performance and seemed more comfortable in her role than Nelson.
What really awed audiences was the elaborate puppetry that made “The Lion King” so revolutionary nearly 20 years ago. Drew Hirshfield, who served as the puppeteer for Zazu, was fluid and really made the bird come alive.
One of the many highlights of his performance was his clever jab at “Frozen,” mockingly serenading Scar with his version of “Let it Go,” much to the evil lion’s dismay.
Puppeteering for Timon was Nick Cordileone, who had great chemistry with fellow puppeteer and sidekick, Ben Lipitz, who portrayed Pumba. Together, the actors made a great comedic duo and did a nice job helping the audience forget their worries in their performance of “Hakuna Matata.”
The biggest damper on the show was the mics, which seemed to be turned down too low, causing some of the actors to be drowned out by the pit band.
As a whole, the entire cast worked well together and managed to live up to “The Lion Kings’” legendary reputation.