The Lion King Visited the Lion City

The Lion King is one of the movies that I’m sure many of us are familiar with. One thing that gets stuck on everyone’s mind was the motto that Timon and Pumbaa shared to the young Simba, which is “Hakuna Matata” that is simply interpreted as “no worries”. It was a great philosophy which many of the people I know at that time lived by, to go through each day with simply nothing at all to worry about. But that was back at the mid 90’s and now is the 2011. The year 2011 is where the lion city, Singapore, hosted The Lion King theatrical performance. Far away from the image depicted from the original cartoon, the theatrical perfomance actors and actresses do not hide behind the mask of the cartoon characters. I will elaborate more on this later.

The play that was opened by a powerful song Circle of Life followed the story of lion cub Simba, who was driven to exile after the death of his father, Mufasa the King. Mufasa was murdered by his monstrous brother, Scar who has since longed to overthrow him. The pride land was driven into despair of hopelessness under the reign of Scar.

In exile, Simba found best friends in Timon and Pumbaa, a wisecracking meercat and a big-hearted warthog respectively who taught them the infamous ‘Hakuna Matata’ way of life. As the year passed by and Simba grew into a young lion, he soon found out from a long lost friend, Nala, about the condition of the pride land and in the end reclaimed his birthright to become the king. How did he do it? Well that’s what you will need to find out yourself by watching the play.

There are a lot of songs that will amaze you during the play. My favourite will be the Circle of Life that opened and closed the play as well as the infamous Hakuna Matata where it showed the transition of Simba as lion cub to a young lion. What’s interesting is how some local element are instilled within the play, that too you need to watch it yourself lah :)

As I mentioned above, you won’t see the actors and actresses at the play hiding behind The Lion King costume to mimic the cartoon because Julie Taymor, the Director behind this award-winning play want edthe audience to experience what she called ‘the double event.’ What she meant is that not only that you will see the masks that depicted the animal represented by the players, but also the faces of the human behind it. Somehow, during the play, the two elements intertwined and you will see them as one. Taymor’s experience in Indonesia for five years was brought to the play by mean of inspiration to the masks and the lighting of the play taken from the art forms of topeng (masked dance/drama) and wayang kulit shadow puppetry.

Choreographer Garth Fagan also took elements from Balinese dance that was evident in the isolated movement of the head and body parts. It really helped to breathe life into the mask and the costume. Fagan also took inspiration from the traditional Japanese puppetry, Banraku to create the elegant animal movement.

Jonathan Andrew Hume, who has been with the play since he was still very young now, played Simba, while the lioness Nala played by Puleng March. Both told me during my interview with them, at the very beginning it was very hard to learn the routine of Balinese Dance because it wasn’t something that they were familiar with. However theire hard work paid off with the spectacular response from the viewers in Singapore.

Mufasa was played by the French actor Jean Luc Guizonne, who said that one of the biggest challenges for him performing in The Lion King is because he needed to act in a language that is not his mother tongue; English. The antagonistic Scar was played by Patrick Brown from Canada while Gugwana Dlamini from South Africa played the wise baboon shaman Rafiki. Pierre van Heerden and Jamie McGregor played Pumbaa and Timon respectively.

If you remember in the original The Lion King cartoon, Rafiki is actually a male character, but in this play Rafiki is turned into a female character. Taymor feels that there’s a need in having a strong female character because most of the strong characters in this performance are actually male. That’s why she decided that Rafiki was going to be a she instead.

The Lion King plays until the end of May at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre, Singapore from Tuesday to Sunday at 8PM and there’s also 2PM show on Saturday and Sunday. Ticket starts from $65 to $240 for Platinum and you might want to watch for group discount if you want to buy tickets for more than 20. For booking you may check The Lion King website and see packages that they offer if you wish to stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. You can also check SISTIC Hotline +65 6348 5555 for ticketing inquiries.

If you happened to be in Singapore or planning to visit anytime soon don’t forget to watch The Lion King because it’s surely a play to remember!

To see more picture for The Lion King you can click the pictures from the gallery below.