Preview: The Lion King at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Scottish audiences are in for a spectacle like no other when landmark Broadway show The Lion King comes to the Edinburgh Playhouse this autumn.

Scottish audiences are in for a spectacle like no other when landmark Broadway show The Lion King comes to the Edinburgh Playhouse this autumn.

The award-winning Disney musical will run at the Playhouse from Saturday 12th October 2013 to Saturday 18th January 2014. The sell-out tour that has already played to audiences in Manchester and Bristol, receiving standing ovations and critical acclaim.

Fiona Thomas, Vice President, Live Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company EMEA said: “We are so excited to be bringing Julie Taymor’s legendary production of THE LION KING to Scottish audiences for the first time. Edinburgh seemed the perfect city to host this truly international production, given its long tradition of drawing audiences from across the country and around the world to experience its arts festivals. There is also no theatre more suited to the epic scale of THE LION KING than the majestic Playhouse Theatre.”

This is the first time The Lion King has toured Britain and the sheer scale of the production is hard to believe. A backstage crew of over 100 accompanies a cast of 50 and their 700 elaborate costumes in 21 giant trucks that travel from city to city. Amongst this epic troupe is Gugwana Dlamini who plays Rafiki. Gugwana sang on the original film soundtrack as a teenager and has already played Rafiki to rave reviews in the West End. Taking on the role of Simba is Nicholas Nkuna, the youngest ever actor to play The Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.

The musical, adapted from the 1994 film, did not take a smooth a transition from screen to stage as we would expect. Current Producer and President of the Disney Theatrical Group, Thomas Schumacher, originally thought it was “the worst idea (he) had ever heard.”

It certainly poses a problem from a technical point of view—how do you present animals and the African Savanna on stage?

Enter director and designer Julie Taylor. It is her we have to thank for The Lion King’s unique use of masks and puppetry to portray the story. Julie believed that as the story is an analogy for people, actors and dancers should not be hidden inside a costume but be shown to operate the innovative machinery and puppets that create the animals. These include bobbing gazelles on wheels and giraffes on stilts. As Rin Simpson from Western Mail comments, “beautiful doesn’t even come close to describing this visual masterpiece of creative genius.”

Another reason for the global appeal of The Lion King is its magnificent soundtrack. Songs by Elton John and Tim Rice are some of the best Disney has to offer while additional music by Hans Zimmer and Lebo M channels the African vibe that the musical is so famous for.

The Lion King must surely be one of the world’s finest musicals. It is a truly universal show that must be seen at least once in a lifetime. Tickets for Edinburgh dates are on sale now so buy them before they sell out.

Are you looking forward to The Lion King? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.