As pristine as the night it opened on Broadway 19 years ago, The Lion King is more than a treasured family extravaganza, it’s a complete course in musical theater production. Despite cries of “that can’t be done!”, sheer ingenuity and dedication turned Disney’s 1994 animated film into this gigantic stage delight, surrounded by the vibrational beats of music giants Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer. The company’s North American Tour swings through Duke City again at long last, running at UNM’s Popejoy Hall through October 30, 2016.
Most are familiar with the story of Simba, the precocious cub and heir to the Pride Land’s kingdom who must learn life’s lessons the hard way. But who knew it was so funny? Here is where theatre takes command. The timing of live action allows the cast’s actors to ride the audience’s reactions through dozens of hilarious exchanges.
Buyi Zama as the mandrill mystic Rafiki is the first voice on stage and the lingering note you’ll remember long after the show. Zama’s incredible rich and ancient overtones tingle your skin and her powerful baboon screech prickles your laugh center. She is by far the troupe’s star vocalist and cherished soul who shines in all of her scenes.