OPINION: The Lion King comes to life at Centennial Hall; A Broadway review

s3-gugwana-dlamini-as-rafiki-disney-photo-by-johan-persson
Gugwana Dlamini as Rafiki in Disney's "The Lion King." Photo by Johan Persson.

“The Circle of Life” came to life at Centennial Hall last Thursday as Disney’s “The Lion King” returned to Tucson for the first time since 2006. 

Broadway in Tucson now in its 20th year is presenting “The Lion King” through Sept. 25.

Disney’s “The Lion King” is a story about Simba, the son of Mufasa, learning about the responsibilities he will have once he becomes king. Scar, Mufasa’s brother, who is now second in line to the throne after Simba’s birth, has other plans. Scar kills Mufasa and makes Simba believe it’s all his fault, causing him to flee from Pride Rock. As Simba grows older and wiser, he learns that he needs to face his fears of the past and move forward. “Hakuna Matata,” as Simba’s friends Timon and Pumbaa would say.

The cast did amazing. The audience could feel the emotional connection between young Simba, played by Jordan Pendleton, and Mufasa, played by Gerald Ramsey. Their father-son relationship is playful, yet Mufasa is very protective over Simba. Zazu, played by Jürgen Hooper, Timon and Pumbaa, played by Tony Freeman and John E. Brady, respectively, drew lots of laughter from the crowd. Their playful banter with the other actors was simply hilarious. Rafiki, played by Gugwana Dlamini, added the comedic relief as well as the heartfelt messages throughout the show. 

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The costumes and spectacle of the show were astonishing. Each costume was unique in its own way, from the giant elephant that paraded down the aisles through the theater to the cheetah costume controlled by the hand grips the actor had to use to make the cheetah come to life. Ramsey made Mufasa come to life every time he titled his head down to make the lion mask fall over his face. 

Everyone loves the soundtrack to this musical. “The Circle of Life” is one of the most popular songs, but arguably “Hakuna Matata” is the best out of them all. The music fit perfectly and was well executed with every hit of the drums and every note played from the orchestra in the pit. Every actor had a breathtaking voice, especially Dlamini when she opened with “The Circle of Life.” 


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.  


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