Before they even came on stage, I got chills from the combination of the rising sun backdrop and the belted cry of that African lyric everybody knows but doesn't know how to say (Nants ingonyama bagithi baba), by the character of Rafiki who was most excellently played by a woman. Her voice was so commanding, and I especially liked all the tongue-clicking that was included in the language she sometimes spoke in, almost like something out of Star Wars. The whole cast was amazing, but my favorite character was Mufasa, played by Dionne Randolph. His voice was so utterly masculine and delicious, firm but comforting at the same time, while his composure and manner of walking gave him the utmost regal quality. I adored his loving relationship with Simba, which was surprisingly more evident to me now than it ever was in the movie - maybe because the characters were played by actual people?
But back to the animals - man, those things were crazy!! Zebras, cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, antelope, wildebeasts, rhinos, and even a huge elephant were all maneuvering around the stage at some point, controlled by the performers whose costumes were constructed so that they became one being, not just an actor with a puppet. A bow of the head or slight twitch of the shoulder would be exactly reflected in the animal part of the costume, so it all blended very consistently. Mufasa and Scar had really cool masks that usually rested on top of their heads, but were attached in such a way that they could be suspended down over the actors' faces to intensify a scene. The audience was baffled by how they were controlled. I think it had something to do with how the two held their shoulders, since it obviously wasn't any type of robotic contraption, but I can't be sure.
I've already mentioned the music was fantastic, however, my favorite song from the movie, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, sounded a little different than usual. Actually I felt the whole reunion of Nala and Simba to be rushed a little, and honestly I wish I could have felt the love a little more. The performance had a few glitches, some technical, maybe one minor mistake on a cast member's part, but overall I was able to forgive them. The choreography did not amaze me, but again, the show had so many other great qualities that canceled out the things I didn't care for so much. Right now I just want to watch the movie for probably the 30th time in my life - that could either be a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, the two are separately enjoyable experiences that could not replace each other, and I'm really glad I got the opportunity to see it on broadway. Now for some pictures! Only the first one is mine, the others I pulled from the internet.