Fri, Aug 01, 2008 - Page 13 News List

In the jungle, the quiet jungle …

'The Lion King' Broadway extravaganza roars into Taipei Arena for a three-week run beginning tomorrow

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Everyone knows of The Lion King (1994) movie, and who hasn't heard of the stage musical version? Given that publicity for the touring show's Taipei leg has been going on for nearly a decade, it's not too much of a surprise that the cheaper tickets sold out quickly.

Performing at the Taipei Arena starting with a matinee tomorrow at 2:30pm and running until Aug. 24, the cast and crew of The Lion King arrived in Taipei last week to set up the massive production, which is most notable for its extensive use of sophisticated puppets and models to bring the animal life of the Pridelands, the mythical African land of the story, to life.

The controversy over the show’s similarities to the Japanese anime television show Kimba the White Lion is well-known.

The incorporation of puppetry makes The Lion King interesting from a purely theatrical point of view, as this brings complex conceptions of how we see and perceive action on stage into a mainstream popular production. It is a wonderful way of introducing children to the potential of ancient art forms such as bunraku puppetry (an ancient Japanese art form where performers manipulate life-sized puppets while remaining fully visible themselves), and shadow puppetry, both of which are used extensively in The Lion King.

The stage production, with its huge array of props (though the touring production forgoes some of the more sophisticated stage effects of the West End and Broadway productions), is nothing less than spectacular. Musically, too, there is much to interest even those who have seen the film, for many songs were incorporated into the stage production to flesh out the script. In addition to the songs that many people are already familiar with written by that superstar pairing of Elton John and Tim Rice, there is a significant contribution from the Grammy Award-winning composer from Soweto, South Africa, Lebo Morake, whose voice is first heard in the famous chant at the beginning of the movie.

PERFORMANCE NOTES

What: The Lion King

When: Tomorrow at 2:30pm; tomorrow through Aug. 10, Aug. 12 to Aug. 17 and Aug. 19 to Aug. 23 at 7:30pm; Aug. 9, Aug. 10, Aug. 16, Aug. 17 and Aug. 23 at 2:30pm; Aug. 24 at 11am and 6pm

Where: Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋), 2, Nanjing E Rd

Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市南京東路四段2號)

Tickets: NT$800 to NT$6,600, available at

www.kham.com.tw

On the Net: www.lionkingtaiwan.com.tw


This thoroughly appealing combination of pop music sophistication and the vibrancy of African music, of modern stagecraft and millennia old artistic traditions, has held up well over the years — held up even better than the film, whose animation techniques already look flat compared to the succession of increasingly mind-blowing animated creations from Toy Story (1995) to the current spectacular WALL-E.

The result created by the stage show is probably best summed up by the song Hakuna Matata by Elton John and Tim Rice. The title is Swahili and is commonly translated as “no worries.” Kham, which organized the Taipei run, has opted for a long run at one of the capital’s biggest venues, and is likely to have “no worries” putting bums on seats. Hakuna Matata was one of three songs from The Lion Kong movie to be nominated in the Best Song category for the 1995 Academy Awards, and lost only to Can You Feel the Love Tonight, another song from the same movie. You don’t really need much more testament to the quality of a musical than that.



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