by Louise, Community Manager
Last night, three of us NYG-ers took a trip to the Minskoff theater to see The Lion King. The lights went down and the famous refrain “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba” (“here comes a lion”) rang out through the theater, vocalized by the talented Tshidi Manye, who is currently playing Rafiki in the production. The company responded “Sithi uhm ingonyama” (“oh yes, it’s a lion”) and instantly I was 14 years old again, sitting next to my father in an aisle seat on the left side of the orchestra (yes, I remember my seat location – that’s how big an impression this show made), not sure what to expect. My dad took me to see The Lion King shortly after it opened in 1997. I had just started high school and obviously thought I was far too old for a Disney show, but my father is a huge Julie Taymor fan and told me that is was definitely going to be an amazing experience.
How right he was. Here it is, half my life ago and I had a crystal clear memory of watching the actors come down the aisle and my sheer amazement with the beauty of the costumes, a beauty that will strike you whether you’ve seen pictures of them or are seeing them for the first time. This memory was of course mixed with awe and joy anew as I watched the beautiful giraffes (always my favorite) begin their walk across the stage as the utterly remarkable elephant ascended up the aisle of the theater. All the animals meet on the stage in a colorful and moving tableau as the song ends and 1600 people are covered in goose bumps and blinking back tears 8 times a week. Honestly, this opening number is worth the price of admission.
My mom loves to tell this story: after I saw The Lion King for the first time with my dad, I couldn’t stop talking about the beautiful sets and amazing costumes and my mother asked about the story. I responded, with a characteristic teenage eye-roll “Well Mom, it’s The Lion King.” My point is, despite the fact that I felt too old for the story, I loved every moment of the show. The costumes, puppetry, and sets are mind-blowing, and the songs you know and love from the film like Circle of Life, Hakuna Matata, and Can You Fee the Love Tonight are joined by more traditional African melodies like One by One, Shadowland, and my absolute favorite, He Lives in You.
Take your kids to see this show! As a now-adult who saw this show as a kid, I can promise you that it is an experience they will carry with them for a long, long time. And if you don’t have kids, or your kids are already adults, go see it anyway and it will wake up your inner child. January is a great time to get good seats to The Lion King – contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan your trip!