Simba Comes to Capitol TheatreAugust 13, 2014

To those who missed "The Lion King", Walt Disney Pictures's musical adventure film, there's no need to worry. To those who are curious about Simba and his happy-go-lucky mates, the wait won't be long. They're coming to town.

The stage version of this animated movie will be the main feature at Sydney's Capitol Theatre from August 8-31. This is a major event that Sydneysiders shouldn't miss, one of the reasons not to be out there. (It is mildly cold, which can be pleasant. But there's nothing like being indoors.) The musical debuted at the Orpheus Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 8, 1997. Julie Taymor, who have been directing plays for almost thirty years, took charge of actors in animal costumes and giant, hollow puppets. It was a reimagination never seen before.

“At the very beginning, when I got the call, I was one of the very few people who hadn’t seen the film,” she recalled.

After viewing it, Taymor says, “I thought it was a very good animated film. I was very taken with the song ‘Circle of Life’ and I loved the beauty of the stampede sequence.”

“But I thought that elements of the story were lacking. There was no real journey for Simba or Nala, and I felt the authentic African elements weren’t used nearly enough.”

The Bard is the only reason

Thomas Schumacher, then president of Disney and now head of its theatrical division, didn't choose Taymor, a native of Newton, Massachusetts, for no apparent reason. Although much of her body of work was on stage, she did a handful of films. Some were adaptations of Shakespeare's plays.

Not a few thought that "The Lion King" was how "Hamlet" would be like in the wild. Simba was a reluctant heir to the throne, much like Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, while Scar, Simba's uncle, had a striking semblance to Claudius. This was what gave the animated film some weight. It turned out to be one of Disney's greatest musicals.

Compare to "Beauty and the Beast", the only animated film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, "The Lion King" would be the kind of movie that Disney had been churning out since the studio era. But directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff kept it serious most of the time. (It won't be Shakespeare if that wasn't the case.) There were occasional moments of singing and dancing, where Simba's gang were ready to strike it up. (Nathan Lane's Timon, a wise-cracking and self-absorbed meerkot, was a scene stealer.) The theme song, "The Circle of Life", was how Mother Nature would want it to be. But for Disney, it was going back to where they became known for.

Hakuna Matata

"The Lion King" was the fourth longest running show in New York history, also the highest grossing Broadway musical of all time.

The musical made its debut on Capitol Theater on 2003. It was riveting back then. Expect this revival to be no different.

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