The Lion King roars into Bristol

PUBLISHED: 13:50 07 September 2012

The Lion King, Disney, UK tour, opening night September 7 2012 at the Hippodrome, Bristol.

The Lion King, Disney, UK tour, opening night September 7 2012 at the Hippodrome, Bristol.

photographer Deen van Meer

EASILY the most famous Disney film of the past two decades and now one of the most successful touring shows of all time, The Lion King roared back into action on its opening night at Bristol's Hippodrome.

A production packed with brilliantly inventive costumes, an explosion of colour and an enigmatic cast brimming with charisma, it lived up to its billing as one of the best spectacles in theatre.

Men on stilts became huge giraffes, elephants made of wire and paper hid performers as they travelled through the aisles of the stunned audience and a sea of pan pipes, African drums and vocal power brought it all home in spectacular fashion.

The tale of young lion Simba’s exile from his pride after his scheming uncle, Scar, kills his father Mufasa and plunges the animal kingdom into darkness is well known, but the cast’s talent made it fresh once more.

There were great performances all round, but Meilyr Sion’s Scottish Zazu and Gugwana Dlamini’s Rafiki were excellent comic stand-outs – Dlamini especially nailing a perfect sense of comic timing and physical presence.

But the star of the show was undoubtedly Stephen Carlile’s Scar. From his velvet-smooth voice of menace to his prowling, scheming physicality, the villain was simply sublime, grabbing the audience’s attention every time he came on stage.

From the cackling hyenas to the comic duo of Timon and Pumbaa, there were plenty of laughs to break up the sadder sections – but all were pulled off with style.

The musical set-pieces were each delivered with aplomb.

I Just Cant’ Wait To Be King fell a little flat as the (adorable) child stars playing young Nala and Simba seemed slightly nervy as they delivered their one big song – but it was more than made up for by Be Prepared, Hakuna Matata and of course, Circle Of Life.

It all added up to a show worthy of its legend and its place on top of the theatrical food chain.

As one man said to his girlfriend at the end: “That for you was like Batman was for me.”

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