Review: Stunning Lion King tingles all the senses

The Lion King ***** (Edinburgh Playhouse)

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 5:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 5:26 pm
The Lion King - Thandazile Soni (Rafiki)
The Lion King - Thandazile Soni (Rafiki)

It opens with a true ‘wow’ factor and never lets up.

The Lion King is simply stunning – the perfect example of how to stage a musical on the biggest scale imaginable.

It is a dazzling feast of colour and sound to tingle all the senses – an absolute joy to see.

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The Lion King - Jean-Luc Guizonne as Mufasa

From the very moment all the animals parade down the aisles in the stalls on to the stage, you are transported to plains of Africa to soak up the story of Simba you probably know off by heart thanks to Disney’s smash hit film and its glorious soundtrack.

And this is theatre on a huge scale – on and off stage.

Musicians are in the ‘royal boxes’ while actors appear in the stalls and circle, giving this show a 360-degree feel.

And, from the opening refrain of ‘Circle Of Life’ and the soaring vocals of Rafiki, superbly played by Thandazile Soni, it simply captivates.

The Lion King - Josslyn Hlenti (Nala), Young Simba (Dahsaun Young) and the company

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Everything from the stunning lighting and scenery to the choreography stand out, and then there are the incredible costumes which allow the actors to switch from human to animal and back again with the merest move of a shoulder or a bow of the head.

So much happens at times in the set pieces, you find yourself scanning the stage, eager not to miss anything.

The first half tells the story of the cub Simba who loses his father, Mufasa, and is banished by his menacing uncle, Scar.

The second half follows his story into adulthood, and his return to reclaim his rightful place as the Lion King.

There are stand out performances across the board – none more so than Matthew Forbes as Zazu – while the script has been updated to reference Disney hit Frozen, and to include a couple of gags with more than a nod to Edinburgh institutions. Steve Beirnaert and Carl Sanderson add lashings of humour to part two as Timon and Pumbaa – Simba’s unlikely travelling companions – while the leads all play their roles superbly.

There have been many fabulous musicals at the theatre this year.

This one sits head and shoulders above them all.

Tjhe Lion King, Edinburgh Playhouse until March 29, 2020. Ticket details HERE