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PostHeaderIcon Lion King Schenectady Review – The Most Dazzling Theatrical Experience

Lion King visiting Schenectady for almost 4-week run to the Proctors Theatre from February 22 and performing through March 20, 2011.

The long-awaited Proctors stop of Disney’s “The Lion King” tour offers all the spectacle one would expect, and then some. The opening sequence, in particular, is one of the most dazzling theatrical experiences imaginable.

The first half-hour, in fact, is one long suspended moment of awe as music, dance and stage magic come together to tell the story of the mighty King Mufasa.

Unfortunately, the rest of the show is built in reverse, making most of act two -despite its Shakespearian overtones of murder, treason and revenge -seem anti-climactic.

The acting -all done in broad Disney gestures – is generally strong, and so is the singing. The production values never flag. But, unlike the Bard, the journey is a little too simple to carry its own weight.

“It is,” a friend noted during intermission, “based on a cartoon.”

Given all that, it’s hard to imagine that anyone comes to “The Lion King” for the story (the fall and rise of a young lion king, Simba) alone. They come for, well, the spectacle.

Julie Taymor’s famous direction of the piece makes sure to provide a feast for the eye and the ear, with African aspects abundant in the music and Richard Hudson’s scenic design.

Taymor’s costuming in this show makes that of “Cats” look like line drawings. And her puppets and masks, created with Michael Curry, are simply wonderful. Often the two elements are combined, with actors wearing their outfits and operating them at the same time.

There is no effort to hide the fact that these animals are puppets. Sticks and joints and hand grips are visible. That makes things even more magical, because the imagination is engaged in finishing the beasts, rather than simply in figuring out how “they” did it.

This is also a tale best told in earth tones, such as that first half hour. When Taymor’s palette opens up and the big numbers (including “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”) start rolling in, the play loses some of its beauty and regal bearing.

The bright explosions of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Matata” delight the kids, but it’s “They Live In You” and “Shadowland” that will engage adults.


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