DISNEY’S LION KING at the Detroit Opera transcends with ingenious costumes and an epic score
Disney’s The Lion King, a groundbreaking musical and the third longest-running musical on Broadway, is in the middle of his nearly month-long reign at the Detroit Opera, where he will remain until February 20. Based on the 1994 Disney film, The Lion King premiered on Broadway in 1997 and ended up garnering a host of awards around the world, including the 1998 Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Choreography, and more. From the moment the curtain goes up at the Detroit Opera, you see exactly why The Lion King won all these awards.
The Lion King centers on a royal family of lions who rule an area of Africa called the Pride Lands. At the peak of the show, King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi give birth to their son, Simba, who is destined to become the king. In short, the musical is about how far evil Uncle Scar will go to steal the crown from Mufasa and Simba.
Picture this: the theater lights are dimmed, the curtain rises and, on the right side of the stage, is Rafiki, intoning the first verses of the famous opening number, “Circle of Life”. Within moments, the stage is covered with cast members dressed in the most amazing costumes of giraffes, cheetahs, birds, lions, and more. Soon after, even more cast members begin to descend on the aisles of the orchestra, allowing audience members to see Tony’s winning costumes up close.
From the opening number, you are immediately immersed in the universe of Pride Lands. The Lion King isn’t just a “Disney show” – it’s an experience from start to finish. It goes beyond the costumes and choreography – the score and vocals are sure to give you chills. Some of these songs include “Circle of Life,” as well as “They Live in You,” the Oscar-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Shadowland,” “Endless Night,” and “He Lives in You (Resume). On the other side of the spectrum, there are also songs that are there simply to put a smile on your face, like “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Hakuna Matata”, two songs made famous by the original film. . .
The Lion King is truly an ensemble show, and it seems like only one member is having their moment in the spotlight, especially with the awesome costumes.
As Mufasa’s understudy, Aaron Nelson embodied the true spirit of a king, and his perfect rival took the form of the menacing and ruthless scar of Spencer Plachy.
Charlie Kahler and Kalandra Rhodes were positively adorable as Young Simba and Young Nala respectively, making you believe in their connection all the more when they reunite in Act 2 as Darian Sanders and Kayla Cyphers. Sanders stole the show during his “Endless Night” number, while Cyphers’ hauntingly beautiful solo “Shadowlands” had you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Another star was Jürgen Hooper, who plays Zazu, a hornbill who serves as an adviser to the royal family. His banter and mannerisms are everything you’d expect from Zazu, and more. Read our interview with Hooper here for an insider look at what to expect from the series.
A feat of modern musical theatre, The Lion King is a masterpiece reminiscent of other Disney musicals, but it’s even more than that. Above flashy dance numbers and favorite childhood songs, this musical shows us that we have a responsibility to reach our full potential and be confident in ourselves. As a message that resonates with viewers of all ages, The Lion King absolutely worth the trip to the Detroit Opera House.
And in the city of Detroit, it’s a refreshing change of pace to finally have lions that are a joy to watch.
To stay up to date with by Disney The Lion Kingfollow them on their website at lionking.comon Twitter at @The Lion Kingon Instagram at @the Lion Kingand on Facebook at facebook.com/TheLionKingUSA. You can also check out the Disney on Broadway TikTok account on @disneyonbroadway.