The Lion King UK Tour Review

 The Lion King has made an almighty roar as it took to the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton stage this week. Following its mammoth success in London, and on previous UK tours, The Lion King is back on the road and making its home in Southampton for the next few weeks. Filled with all the hits that families know and love, this show does more that showcase the circle of life, it immerses the audience in it from the first note until the final bow. 

Based on the classic film we know and love, The Lion King follows Simba, a young lion on his journey as he accepts his past and becomes the rightful king of the Pride Lands. Along the way he finds friends, enemies, family, and even love resulting in a show that warms your heart, leaves you on the edge of your seat, and giving a standing ovation before the final bows even begin. With new songs intertwined amongst the classics we know and love, you see more character development and understanding of the emotions that these characters are going through on the stage. 

The show is nothing short of a visual spectacle. From the opening scene with giant puppets, flying birds, and characters built into headpieces, you know you are in for a special show. As you watch these actors on stage, their characters come to life and the puppets they move and manipulate feel like they are a part of them in such a seamless way you almost forget these actors are playing animals. With elephants as big as the stage, giraffes on stilts, and gazelles leaping before your eyes, there is always something to look on both the stage and within the auditorium. As Max whispered to me after the Circle of Life was performed "it's like we are part of the show, and it's magical". Each prop and puppet lends to the story in such a way that it's no wonder this show is such a massive hit. I absolutely adored the staging, and the simplicity of it mixed with the complexity of the costuming and puppetry really lent to both African culture and the story itself.

It's hard to pick a favourite moment, but both "Hakuna Matata" and "Be Prepared" were act one stand outs for me. I loved the portrayal of the hyenas and the trio had me in fits of laughter at their silly yet menacing nature, whilst  Alan McHale and Carl Sanderston blew me away as Timon and Pumbaa with their spot on accents and lovable nature. Act 2 brings you the absolutely beautiful "He Lives in You" reprise with a visual effect that had me audibly gasp in the audience, whilst the Pride Rock end scene had Max literally nail biting in his seat it was so tense. 

Whilst the characters on stage are ones that we all know and love, you can't help but feel that seeing them on stage just makes you fall in love with them even more. I adored both Josiah Remi Araba-Coker and Serenna Raphaella Hunte's performances as young Simba and Nala, their energy and enthusiasm was so infectious we were dancing in our seats during "Just Can't Wait to be King". Their adult counterparts were just as incredible as they sprung across the stage with such grace, Nokwanda Khuzwayo was a graceful yet strong Nala and Stephenson Ardern-Sodje was the perfect leading man (or lion!). A huge congratulations must go to Matthew Forbes for being the most perfect Zazu that you could ever want on stage, giving us character through both a puppet and a person can't be easy, but he nailed it and I couldn't have wished for a better casting. 

The Lion King is a show that might seem like one you know back to front, but until you see it on stage, you truly haven't experienced the story properly. In my honest opinion, the stage is where it belongs and I hope that it's run in London, the UK and around the world doesn't end any time soon. It's a credit to each actor on stage, and each seamstress, prop maker and puppeteer to create something that we could say is nothing less than perfect. A show that will entertain, amaze, and immerse you in the circle of life. A show that young and old will love and leave wishing they could see it again. A must see for the whole family. 

The Lion King is on at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until the 15th October before continuing on its UK tour. Tickets are limited, but still available here: The Lion King SouthamptonThere are limited tickets for various accessible performances including audio described, captioned, signed, and relaxed and they are available through the same link above. 

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