The Lion King

The Lion King made its Seattle debut at the Paramount back in 2004. Since then, Julie Taymor's production has blown up into a cultural phenomenon, thanks to rave reviews and diehard fans. Does it live up to the hype? In short, yes. The Tony Award-winning musical based on the Disney animated film of the same name is tremendously innovative. Its actors utilize puppets, masks, and stilts to transform themselves into graceful antelope, plodding giraffes, and majestic lions. The percussion-heavy score draws its influence more from traditional African music than its pop-friendly counterpart. The storyline, however, adheres closely to the film, in which the lion prince Simba (André Jackson) must face the death of his father Mufasa (Dionne Randolph) and battle his evil corrupt Uncle Scar (Timothy Carter) to regain his rightful place as king. And as in the original, the real scene-stealers are not the leads but the charismatic sidekicks. Tony Freeman shines as Mufasa's loyal majordomo Zazu, Mark Shunock and Ben Lipitz draw plenty of laughs as snarky meerkat Timon and gassy warthog Pumbaa, and South African native Phindile Mkhize shines as Rafiki. The Lion King is a rarity—a culturally savvy and visually stunning work, and its return to a local stage after five years is none too soon. ERIKA HOBART

Tuesdays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Feb. 11. Continues through March 15, 2009

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