Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

The Lion King

Also see John's review of Xanadu

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and Broadway Across America, together with Disney Theatrical, presents The Lion King. Based on the 1994 Disney animated film, the musical features music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice (additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer).

The Lion King premiered on Broadway on October 15, 1997, at the New Amsterdam Theater, official opening on November 13, 1997. It moved to the Minskoff Theatre on June 13, 2006, where it is still running after more than 6,000 performances. The production received five Tony Awards and eight Drama Desk Awards in 1998. It is currently the highest grossing Broadway show of all time, grossing more than $853.8 million.

This touring production is a feast for eyes, rich with creative costume, costume extensions, and giant, hollow puppets. Choreography is married with perfection to the actors to create the illusion of an African landscape teaming with animals. Entrances through the audience, birds flying aloft, and actors singing from balconies, all help to submerge the audience in the fanciful experience. The music is filled with pulsating rhythms truly reminiscent of the sounds of African music. Interestingly, aside from the famous songs "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," "Hakuna Matata," "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," and "Circle of Life" the rest of the music in the show is unremarkable and quickly forgotten. Though the orchestras—particularly the percussionists—play the show beautifully, there were a few muddy sound system issues on the night attended.

Buyi Zama, as Rafiki the mandrill, has an incredibly commanding voice and stage presence. Dionne Randolph cuts an impressive figure as Mufasa and has a confident and masculine presence. J. Anthony Crane as Scar is every inch the villain you love to hate. The educated, mellow tones of his speaking voice barely hide the contempt beneath. He is flanked by a creepy trio of hyenas: Shenzi (Rashada Dawan), Banzai (Keith Bennett) and Ed (Robbie Swift), whose presence is a bit more menacing than in the film. The grown-up Simba is played by handsome Jelani Remy, who has a lovely singing voice, though his acting makes him seem a bit young for the role. He is paired with Syndee Winters as the grown up Nala, who by comparison seems a more seasoned actress.

Colorful side-kicks abound in this story—leaving wonderful possibilities for character actors. Nick Cordileone is quite funny as the meerkat Timon. His best friend is a wart hog named Pumbaa, played by Ben Lipitz. Lipitz is not quite as big or energetic in his comic choices as Cordileone, and seems almost weary at times. Mark David Kaplan is charming as the hornbill Zaza, Mufasa's advisor. He truly makes the most of his role.

The real star of the The Lion King is the spectacle itself. Actors as animals parading down the aisles, birds circling overhead, and other animal puppets large and small, tall and short, dancers moving gracefully and menacingly, all make for a memorable, family friendly theatrical experience. Julie Taymor's creative vision is sheer genius in the execution of it all. This is a show everyone should see once, and the message at the heart of it all is after all the timeless tale of the circle of life.

The prolific Sir Elton John is the winner of one Tony Award and six Grammy Awards and has sold more than 250 million records over the span of his career. He is the recipient of a 2004 Kennedy Center Honor Award, and a 2006 Disney Legends Award. His other music awards include an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for "Can You Feel The Love Tonight."

Lyricist Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for the musicals Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, Aida and The Lion King. He also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award in 1993 for the song "A Whole New World" from the film Aladdin.

Broadway Across America - Miami is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is made possible by the public support of the Miami-Dade County Major and the Board of County Commissioners, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. It also receives generous support from private and corporate contributions to the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami through it's Membership Program, the City of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, the Dade Community Foundation, The MAP-Fund, the Sate of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Lion King appeared May 15 - June 10, 2012 in the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The Arsht is located at 1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Florida, and houses the 2,400 seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, as well as the 2,200 seat John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, and the 300 seat Carnival Studio Theater. For information, or to purchase tickets for the many diverse offering of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, you may contact them at 305-949-6722, or visit them online at For more information on The Lion King tour, visit

Rafiki: Buyi Zama
Mufasa: Dionne Randolph
Sarabi: Tryphena Wade
Zazu: Mark David Kaplan
Scar: J. Anthony Crane
Young Simba: Zavion J. Hill
Young Nala: Kailah McFadden
Shenzi: Rashada Dawan
Banzai: Keith Bennett
Ed: Robbie Swift
Timon: Nick Cordileone
Pumbaa: Ben Lipitz
Simba: Jelani Remy
Nala: Syndee Winters
Ensemble Singers: Russell Joel Brown, Ntomb'khona Dlamini, Michael Alexander Henry, Portia Magwaza, Tonoccus McClain, Vusi B. Mhlongo, Marquis Moss, Sihle Ngema, Rob Parks, Maurica Roland, Mpume Sikakane, John Sloan III, Electra Weston
Ensemble Dancers: Amyia Burrell, Erynn Marie Dickerson, Shameika Hines, J. E. Johnson, Selena Moshell, Kevin Petite, Paul B. Sadler, Jr., Derrick Spear, Lilli-Anne Tai, Sharron Williams, Dion Wilson

Director/Costume Design: Julie Taymor
Music Director: Rick Snyder
Choreography: Garth Fagan
Scenic Design: Richard Hudson
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Hair/Make-Up Design: Michael Ward
Mask and Puppet Design: Julie Taymor & Michael Curry
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
Stage Manager: Kenneth J. Davis

Photo: Joan Marcus

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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