Almost dead from lack of food and water, Simba is befriended by a wisecracking meerkat named Timon (Nick Cordileone) and a giant, flatulent warthog named Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz) who seem to hale from New York to judge by their accents. They provide much of the comic relief in the show though their timing was off the night we saw the show. But their infectious vaudeville-esque comedy stylings win the day and they are delightful characters.
Simba grows up with them (the adult Simba is played sublimely by Ben Lipitz) while his childhood lioness friend Nala (a role shared by Kailah McFadden and Sade Phillip-Demorcy) grows up without him. The adult Nala (Syndee Winters) soon finds herself fighting off advances from Scar who, along with his hyena henchmen (played marvelously by Rashada Dawan, Keith Bennett and Robbie Swift) are destroying the Pride Lands ecosystem.
Led by Rafiki, Nala finds Simba who has grown up with guilt and self-doubt. It is Nala’s strength and determination that finally convinces him to go home. Together they return to battle with Scar and company and bring peace to the Pride Lands. Slowly the land recovers. Soon the circle of life continues with the birth of Simba and Nala’s newborn cub.
The Lion King is rich with themes of good versus evil, the delicate balance of nature and of course the circle of life of which we are all a part. The story stands alone, but it doesn’t hurt to have music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. Their work is complimented beautifully with additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Hans Zimmer and the clearly multi-talented Julie Taymor. With a book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, the theatrical version of Disney’s The Lion King garnered 11 Tony nominations and 6 wins and ranks as the highest grossing musical of all time. Add it to your bucket list then go online and get your tickets now. You have until January 13, 2013 to see it at San Francisco’s Orpheum theatre.
The Lion King
Book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi
Music and lyrics by Elton John, Tim Rice
Additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Hans Zimmer, Julie Taymor
Directed by Julie Taymor
Now through Jan. 13, 2013
Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus