Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Lion King @ Bristol Hippodrome 2012

Just came back from watching The Lion King musical at Bristol Hippodrome...  Still in awe! :)

... to think that I nearly gave it a miss because I was down with a bad flu!  My son (who was not too keen) was supposed to take my place but at the eleventh hour, I decided to JUST DO IT.  Flu, fever, cough and all :P

How can I not go?  We bought the tickets, months ago in spring, to secure good seats.  Besides, it was going to be my last 'night out' with hubby and the daughter before they go back to Malaysia.  Huhuhu!  

Truth is, hubby yang beria-ia nak tengok.  The Lion King musical has been playing at the Lyceum Theatre in London since 1999.  13 tahun tu!  When we heard last year, that it would be embarking on its first-ever UK tour, starting with Bristol Hippodrome, hubby decided that we just had to see the show.  Tak tau bila pulak nak sampai Malaysia.  It was 'now or never'.

I wasn't too keen to see the show because I was skeptical:  how can you successfully turn an animation film - about ANIMALS - to stage? I balked when hubby went for the premier seats.  Seeing the horror on my face, the ticket attendant showed me the video of the musical, to assure me that hubby would indeed be paying a worthy price.  I had to agree at that point, that the show looked pretty impressive.  Yes, I was won over, but still... skeptical :).

In the cold windy night, we walked down from my school, where we parked our car, to Bristol Hippodrome.  Sebelum tu, singgah dulu school untuk solat dan jugak pulangkan buku library yg dah overdue...hehehe!  Sebelum masuk theatre, sempat pulak pekena ayam goreng kat kedai kebab sebelah tu :).   

As expected, the auditorium was packed to the brim.  Luckily it was not hot at all.  I remember bundling myself for the Phantom of the Opera musical at Her Majesty's Theatre in London last autumn, and ended up removing layers of clothing, lest I die of extreme heat! :P  In the hippodrome, I  kept my coat on throughout the show.

The place was a hive of activity as theatre ushers pedalled Lion King merchandises, parents minding their excited kiddies, people taking photos...  wait!  Ambik gambar?!   Boleh ka??  I looked around for stern-looking ushers that might be lurking behind my back, ready to pounce on me, at the mere sight of a smartphone... Ada ka??  Takdelah pulak... apa lagi... Klik! Klik!  :)

From where I was sitting, I had a good view of the stage.  The conductor had taken his place in front of the stage but I couldn't see his ensemble, except for two musicians perched in the box seats with their drums and percussion.  Signs of great music to come :)

The show started with that familiar yell from Rafiki, the mandrill:  "Nants' Ingonyama Bakithi Baba!!!"
(There comes a lion, father ... in Zulu).

... And animals started striding down the aisle to the rhythm of  "Circle of  Life".  Yep!  Elephants, giraffes, antelopes!  That caught the audience by surprise and the actors were rewarded with a round of thunderous applause.  My advice at this point:  If you want to be in the thick of things, get the stall seats near the aisle :). There's a reason why they cost a bomb! :)

From the start till the end, there was never a dull moment.  Really!  Superb acting (especially the actor who played Scar), humour and entertainment (especially the antics of Zazu, the three hyenas, and of course, Timon and Pumba), memorable songs (Circle of life, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Hakuna Matata, He Lives In You, etc), great props, colourful costume and ingenious puppetry.  Credits should be given to multi-talented director, Julie Taymor, who also designed the costume, masks and puppets.

You can't compare Lion King with, say, Phantom of the Opera, because they are two distinct genres.  Phantom's strengths are its songs, storyline and special effects.  The strength of Lion King lies in the songs, costume and puppetry...  I love those actor-puppets!  One of my favourites were those men-giraffes!  The actors must have been very strong and agile in order to move about in those stilts!  My all-time favourites have got to be Zazu, the red-billed hornbill and Timon, that pesky meerkat.  Hats off to the respective actors!! :)

The African theme was evident in all aspects of the musical; my African friends would approve :).  However, there were some moments of  'Britishness' like when Zazu pleaded not to be sent back to Glasgow (I went like:  Did I hear that right? LOL!); and when Timon and Pumba started to 'riverdance' to scare the hyenas?  Hehehe!

The Lion King brought back fond memories when I was raising the children.  My son used to chant: "Wimoweh! Wimoweh!" when he was younger, and we would all end up singing along coz it was so catchy!   Even now, I still sing: "Hakuna Matata. *Timon and Tomato (instead of Pumba)" when preparing food in the kitchen :).  * Timon or timun is cucumber in Malay.

Having said this, does not mean that this musical is only suitable for parents with children.  If you have enjoyed watching the Lion King films, you will love the musical, too.  The Lion King musical will be in Bristol till 17 November 2012.  It's next and final stop for 2012, is Manchester.  The troupe will continue their UK tour to Dublin and Birmingham, in 2013.

Verdict:  Don't be skeptical.  Just go and enjoy yourself! :)  Make sure you get STALL seats near the aisle as the scenes actually start from here a number of times.