Broadway In Chicago: The Lion King Musical

Broadway In Chicago: The Lion King Musical
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I am an avid bicyclist.  One of my absolute favorite places to bike around is in Downtown Chicago…and no, I am not one of those lawless bikers who zooms in and out of traffic, never more than 3 seconds away from getting hit by something.  I like to go fast, but I’m a law abiding bicyclist.  Ok…like 90% of the time.  Sometimes you absolutely have to live on the wild side.  But I digress…I can’t even count on both hands the many times I’ve gone past the Cadillac Palace Theatre on a ride and seen throngs of people spilling out of the doors after seeing a production of the Lion King Musical.

I’d be lying if I never felt a twinge of jealousy.  My financial situation really didn’t put me in a position to go and enjoy a show like the Lion King.

And although I’m currently working two jobs, I’m still not sure that my financial situation allows me to go and enjoy a show like the Lion King…but I was very fortunate to luck up on a great deal.

A dear friend of mine, Carlene, texted me and asked if I’d seen her Facebook post about the ticket.

“Nope!”  My simple reply.

“We have a ticket to go see the Lion King.  The price on it is $60.”

$60?  Now that’s a great deal.  Face value on the ticket was $125

Now, I will say that I didn’t have prime seating, but The Cadillac Theatre is a very well designed theatre, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, just simply varying distances between you and the stage.

Now, I wish I could say that I’m some great theater critic who can offer you a grand and enlightening review of the performance.

But I can’t.

I can say that I did have experience in high school performing in musicals (alto saxophone in the pit), and I have some experience singing (choir in high school and college…and singing in a metal band), and at one time I was a music education major.  So, I have some background in music performance and appreciation.

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So the story of the Lion King…everyone knows it.  The music; we know it.  So the musical banks on amazing costuming and spectacle.  The opening number, The Circle of Life, is pure visual spectacle.  I found myself saying “wow” several times throughout the show, but especially during the full ensemble numbers, like the Circle of Life.  Seeing all of the “animals” and the movement, and the fullness and richness of the full vocal ensemble…absolutely captivating.  Add in the backgrounds, the color…I was in awe.  I felt like a kid again.

And just when I thought I’d seen it all, 2 damn elephants, I mean huge elephants, came lumbering up THROUGH THE CROWD and walked up on stage.  I was in the upper balcony, but I still had my jaw in my lap. I can’t imagine how those people sitting on the aisle seeing the show for the first time felt.

As far as performances go, I can only really go with what I like.  The character of Zazu is hilarious and keeps you riveted throughout the performance.  I also thought the actor playing Scar shined throughout the performance.  The voice, to me, felt spot on to the animated film, and his movements and tone just really did it for me.  I also loved how characters made references to Chicago.  For example, a character made reference to working at Garrett’s Popcorn.  I thought that was so cool.

I feel silly offering any criticisms of the musical at all, but there were a few moments or instances that I would have liked to have seen differently.

I felt there were moments musically when a song was ready to just go from yes to YES!!!!!, and perhaps a simple push of volume would’ve done it, but I never got it.  I felt like the dynamics (volume differences) were very flat coming from the orchestra, and they never reached fortissimo (balls loud!).  That could be a musical theatre thing…it could’ve been my distance.  But I felt like songs that were just screaming to bowl me over in emotion ended up just patting me on the head and walking away.

I also felt that the song “I just can’t wait to be king” fell very flat.  It felt to me like there were some timing issues, and the performance of the lead singers…they’re being asked to do a lot during that number, and I felt like it didn’t have the focus, vocal performance wise, of the other songs.  The lead singers are also very young with developing voices, so I’m sure that adds to it too.  Off all the songs in the musical, I thought this one was by far the weakest, but also one of the most colorful and exuberant, so it definitely had that going for it.

This was my first Broadway in Chicago experience.  But, it definitely prompted me to promise myself that I will get out and see more musicals this year.  If you haven’t been out to experience Broadway in Chicago, you should definitely take a look at what’s playing currently, what’s coming, and ticket prices. You won’t regret it, although you may feel like me, and regret not going and checking it out sooner.

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