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Broadway production of Lion King is impressive

July 1, 2011
By SETH STASKEY - The Scene , Times Leader

The Lion King Movie grossed more than $2 million dollars.

Seeing the success on the big screen made it a no-brain decision for Disney to take Simba and friends to Broadway.

And let me tell you, it was a decision that's been totally worth it.

Often times movies taken to Broadway or Broadway musicals taken to the big screen don't translate as well. The Lion King had no such problems.

The Broadway production of The Lion King, which is currently playing both in New York City and at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is everything we thought it would be and plenty more.

There wasn't a moment of the play that I took in recently that didn't have me just glued to the stage.

One of the biggest questions I had going into the theatre was: how in the world are they going to take a cartoon and make it live especially in terms of the animals and characters in that regard?

Not only did Walt Disney make it happen, they did so quite impressively.

The opening scene really hooks you onto the play. The characters actually come through the crowd and you see giraffes, zebras, tribal members, etc marching down to the stage, which leads to the awe-inspiring performance of "Circle of Life."

Throughout the use of the scenery and the portrayal of the animals were some of the most impressive parts to me. Whenever you go to a Broadway production, you obviously expect the acting to be top-notch and this was absolutely no different.

Young Simba was played by Tim Johnson Jr. and he did an outstanding job. Dashaun Young played old Simba and again was just a perfect fit for the part.

Derrick Williams played Mufasa and one of the most interesting characters, to me, was Thom Sesma, who played Scar, the upset brother of Mufasa.

The most entertaining characters in my opinion were Timon, which was played by Aaron DeJesus, and Pumbaa, which was played by Adam Kozlowski. Those guys fit together like peanut butter and jelly especially when they danced the 'Charleston' toward the play's conclusion.

One of the most amazing parts of all of the Broadway shows I've seen - whether they've been in NYC, Vegas or touring shows that have come through Wheeling - is the fact of how well the characters are cast. I've never noticed a glaring void that the person was cast in the wrong role or he or she didn't fit.

The play follows the movie to a tee except for a few minor references to the city it's performing in. Such as the show I witnessed recently, there were references to Las Vegas such as singing a few lines of "Viva Las Vegas," by Timon, the singing bird.

Personally, I liked the changing of the words to a few of the songs because it adds some humor and keeps the audience in touch with the performance and for me it makes me want to see it in another city just because I'd like to see how the other cities are referenced.

The music was outstanding. The pit was impressive and whenever you're dealing with Elton John songs, how can you go wrong? Obviously, songs of The Lion King drew play on mainstream radio and whenever you can go to a play and sing along with the songs, it makes it even easier to relate to.

Let me be the first to tell you, if you're in Vegas, New York City or in a city where there's a touring production of The Lion King and looking for something to do on the cultural side, this play is a must-see.

You won't leave the theatre disappointed. This is the kind of show that you'd actually be willing to watch more than once and it'll probably send you back to your DVD collection to break out the movie version just because you won't be able to get enough.

Staskey may be reached at



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