As a child, I was obsessed with The Lion King.
I used to sing the Circle of Life from the top of my lungs, wishing Timon and Pumba were real and that I could change the story so that Mufasa didn’t die.
Now, 20 years after The Lion King was first released by Disney, I still hold that same obsession and as I sat in the auditorium of the Liverpool Empire – right behind Ken Dodd may I add! – I secretly prayed that by some miracle directors had changed Mufasa’s fate.
Of course, this was not to be, and the show went on.
And what a cracking show it was.
The opening number gave me goosebumps, the cast, dressed in animal costume, paraded through the stalls to the Circle of Life, sending a wave of excitement through the audience.
The costumes were fantastic, the way each animal was created was brilliant, and there were some great balancing skills shown by the giraffes who were on both hand and foot stilts.
The music of The Lion King has always been powerful, and I think casting directors would struggle to find anyone with as powerful a voice and energy as Gugwana Dlamini who played Rafiki.
I’ve seen 42nd Street, I’ve seen the crazy opening tap number which would have even the fittest man in sweats, but Dlamini’s stage presence was incredible and she was an instant hit with the audience from the second the words ‘Ah zabenya’ projected through the theatre.
Meilyr Sion’s performance as the Glaswegian Zazu was also hugely popular. Despite it being clear to anyone watching that the bird was being controlled and spoken for by the man in the blue suit, I was drawn to the face of the puppet Zazu and somehow managed to blank out Sion’s, the way you do with subtitles sometimes.
I was also astounded by the way a puppet could be made to have so many different expressions.
This was the same when my favourite Timon and Pumba entered the stage.
You forget the man behind the costume or puppet, and the animal character is all you see.
Between the three of them they created an element of comedy that was needed to uplift the mood following the dramatic, yet cleverly staged death of Mufasa.
The opening of Act Two was spellbinding – the harmonies from the ensemble once again sent shivers down your spine, as did those of the lionesses, fronted by Liverpool-born Ava Brennan who was given a warm welcome by her home city.
One of my favourite songs in the show was They Live in You – performed by Cleveland Cathnott as Mufasa, and then reprised as He Lives in You by Dlamini and Nicholas Nkuna as Simba.
The chanting from the ensemble and the soft tones of the musician’s instruments complemented the voices of the main singers to create a powerful and memorable song that I could listen to over and over.
Overall the show was really well choreographed, and the minimalist use of props was really effective.
On screen or stage, I still love The Lion King as much as I did as a four-year-old girl.
Its music never gets old and I would definitely recommend watching this incredible tour.