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Review | The Lion King | Palace Theatre Manchester | 23/12/2022



The Lion King has come roaring into Manchester 25 years after its Broadway debut. With longevity like this alongside an unprecedented 19 week Manchester residency, I headed down to the Palace Theatre to find out what the hype was all about.


Loosely based on Hamlet (fact of the day), The Lion King tells the story of young Lion Simba who is next in line as the King, a title currently held by his father Mufasa. His power-hungry uncle Scar is insanely jealous and wants to take this title for himself. With fellow Lioness Nala, loyal Meerkat Timon and lovable Warthog Pumba, will Simba ever get to fulfil his destiny and become King? With the 1994 film grossing over $1billion and the musical having already being seen by 110million people, I’m sure you probably already know how the story goes!


The puppetry and costumes are the real stars of this show. A total of 232 puppets are used within the production. The show starts with the classic ‘Circle of Life’ where the animals all come to Pride Rock to see the unveiling of baby Simba. I won’t spoil how this is done, but it is truly moving and extremely powerful. I’d go as far to say it is one of the greatest musical openings of all times. A few people were seen wiping tears, so clearly the audience agreed.


The Lion King has some of the best Disney music, famously written by Elton John & Tim Rice. However, these don’t work as well on stage as you would perhaps hope. The music sounds quite hollow at times and misses the richness that you usually get from a live orchestra. Songs that I usually love such as ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ & ‘Be Prepared’ fell flat both in orchestration and vocals. Adding new songs to an already much beloved score is a risk. However these additional songs such as ‘He Lives In You’ are great. In fact, ‘He Lives In You (Reprise)’ is the only song other than ‘Circle of Life’ that packs a punch.


One of the things I love most about the film is how it transports you to Africa. With panto-esque jokes/references to Bury Market and Salford, I never felt like I left the UK. Some of these lines went down better than others, so there were clearly some people who enjoyed these elements more than I did.


Making a musical out of an animated film with animals shouldn’t work, but this translates perfectly on stage through some truly incredible puppetry. It is the things that should automatically make this musical great (music and that special ‘Disney magic’) which weren’t given enough attention. Whilst it might be a nice introduction to theatre for children, I found it quite underwhelming and it didn’t live up to the hype for me. However, looking at ticket sales for the Manchester dates it seems to be popular with the masses.


The Lion King plays at the Palace Theatre until 11 March 2023. See below for booking details.







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