It’s a tale as old as time. On the one hand it’s a tragic story of murder and revenge and one son’s (or in this case cub’s) quest to grow into the man he was meant to be. On the other it’s an amusing tale about the importance of friendship and responsibility, with talking animals and catchy toe-tapping songs. Shakespeare called it Hamlet; Disney fans know it as The Lion King. But no matter how you look at it, the Broadway musical version of the movie is nothing short of a spectacular, and it’s here for a return engagement. Lucky us!
When it comes to Broadway plays, the Lion King reigns over the rest (70 million theatergoers can’t be wrong, right?). And when it comes to kid-friendly Broadway musicals (we’re pretty sure that’s gotta be a short list), The Lion King is the perfect place to start. Because if ever there was a family-friendly production, this is it. Thanks, Disney! The kidlets that loved the movie will be captivated by the same humorous, playful creatures that grabbed their hearts on the big screen. And their parents will be awed by the staging and puppeteering that make this production a standout winner of multiple, (we’re talking 70-plus) global theater awards. Get ready for a roaring good time with the fam!
Cheetahs and Elephants and Hyenas! Oh my!
The standout stars of this musical are definitely the animal puppets created by Director/Designer and Tony Award winner, Julie Taymor. From the moment you first glimpse the giraffes crossing the stage, or the elephants sauntering down the aisle, larger than life, you and the kiddos will be sucked in. For good. There’s no turning back once the Circle of Life begins and Mufasa’s menagerie of subjects surrounds Pride Rock. The magic just grows from there. Grasslands, plants and all the African animals intersect with human puppet masters to create an anthropomorphic spectacle that’ll leave you wanting more. Encore!
The Old and the New
The animals aren’t the only things to love about this production. Fans of the movie know the power of the Elton John/Tim Rice songwriting duo. Just try not to sing along with their chart-topping hits like Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Hakuna Matata! In the stage production, these familiar, ear-candy faves are joined by new songs steeped in African tradition, composed by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Hans Zimmer, that bring an air of authenticity to this grown-up production. The effect is mesmerizing music that appeals to both the Littles and the Bigs. Bravo!
Just for Kids
Kid-appeal can be found around every turn in this production. There’s Pumbaa and Timon, who are as funny as ever as live action puppets. And their masterful puppeteers insert themselves oh-so-gracefully into second chair behind the larger-than-life personalities of these two characters, delivering all the silly humor needed for maximum giggles (potty humor is never lost on the preschool bunch, is it?). Then there’s Zazu, who the kids just love to hate. Part tattletale, part preachy teacher, he (and his gloriously funny human counterpart) remains the perfect court jester on stage. Simba and Nala, both played by young actors for the first Act, round out the compelling kid-friendly characters. These two have the power to captivate a youngster’s imagination in a way that adds a whole new dimension to live theater. When they look up on the stage, they’ll see themselves. And the love affair begins!
If you’re thinking about grabbing the kids and heading to the theater, keep a few things in mind. After all, a large portion of the play’s subject matter isn’t G-rated, and there are some definite scary parts. But kids who are familiar with the story have already walked those roads and shouldn’t be too surprised when Mufasa dies or get too worried when those pesky, minion hyenas of Scar’s corner Simba and Nala. But the difference between seeing it on a screen (even one as large as a movie theater) and seeing it live, is noticeable. Loud noises, lighting and smoke effects add to the drama in this production and might be too much for some petit posse members. This is also a long show, with a run time of two-plus hours that doesn’t include the 20-minute intermission. Consider matinee performances for the kidlets who might not be awake for the Second Act otherwise. Bottom line? With a little prep and good timing, the kiddos will want to see it again, and again, and again.
Good to Know
1) If it’s possible, book seats on or close to the aisles on the main floor. The animals parade in through the theater a few times during the show, and there’s nothing like the up close and personal feeling you get when you’re just a few feet away.
2) The Paramount has cushy booster pillows for tiny theatergoers. Pick one up just before entering the theater so the Littles can see over grown-up size heads!
3) No pictures are allowed inside the theater, so snap selfies and other post-worthy pics outside the building or in the lobby. Then post, post, post away!
4) The Sunday 1 p.m. performances are ASL/AVIA interpreted, and the 6:30 p.m. performance is open captioned.
The Paramount Theater
911 Pine St.
Seattle, Wa 98101
Dates: March 12- April 6
Times: Tues.-Thurs. 7:30 p.m.; Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sun. 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.; Plus, two special Thurs. matinee performances at 1 p.m. on March 13 and April 3.
Cost: Tickets start at $27.75
Do you plan on seeing The Lion King while it’s in town? Tell us in a comment below.
Photos thanks to Joan Marcus