The Lion King in Edinburgh Review: Edinburgh Playhouse welcomes The Lion King musical back for majestic run

From the moment the sun rises on the plains of the Serengeti and the Pridelands awake, Disney's The Lion King transports you to a magical world of love, loss, hope and triumph as the circle of life returns to its beginnings.

By Liam Rudden
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 4:55 am

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Disney's The Lion King

Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place

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Stephenson Ardern-Sodje as Simba in Disney's The Lion King at Edinburgh Playhouse

FIVE STARS

Based on the animated feature of the same name, few can remain unaware of the tale of Simba the lost lion cub destined for great things.

In the stage musical version, returning to the Capital and to the Edinburgh Playhouse for a third season, all the colour, life and vitality of its screen counterpart explodes onto the stage courtesy of a 37 strong company and some 232 puppets, each beautifully crafted and cleverly operated.

As Simba wanders the plains aimlessly, having been tricked into leaving the pride by his evil uncle, Scar, destiny awaits him in the shape of his childhood friend, the fiercely loyal lioness Nala and news from home. It's a story to warm the heart and one that holds its audience spellbound from the off, spontaneous applause greeting the more spectacular elements of the opening set piece – the physical dexterity of the story-telling allowing the talented ensemble to breath life into the beguiling animals of the Serengeti plains.

As the love-struck Simba and Nala, Stephenson Ardern-Sodje and Nokwanda Khuzwayo make a sweet and well-balanced couple; the latter strong, direct and quite captivating, the former enjoying his transition from uncertain boyish cub to regal beneficent ruler. Vocally both are on top form.

Richard Hurst's conniving Scar, meanwhile, walks the fine line between truth and pantomime, maintaining a degree of threat while never becoming too scary for many of the younger members of the audience who are well below the recommended age of six plus.

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It's the baboon Rafiki, an ephemeral presence imbued with just a touch of mischievousness by the wonderful Thandazile Soni, who steers the action while getting to deliver some of the musical's show-stopping numbers, songs such as the much loved Circle of Life and He Lives In You.

To keep the kids entertained, Timon and Pumba, at this performance Tim Driesen and Carl Sanderson, provide the comedy with an irreverent mix of 'clowning' and fart jokes.

A shout also must go to Jayden Salami and Ruby Ruth Ama Yeboah who, again at this performance, give confident turns as Young Simba and Young Nala.

Fans of Zazu will be pleased to know that Matthew Forbes is suitably agile as King Mufasa's hapless Major Domo.

While Can You Feel The Love Tonight? might be the song many wait for, powerful as its delivery is, it's He Lives In You that remains The Lion King's coup de theatre, that and Richard Hudson and Donald Holder's scenic and lighting designs, which compliment Julie Taymor and Michael Curry's mask and puppet creations perfectly.

Not all theatre transports its audience quite as successfully as The Lion King but that’s the wonder of Disney and what better way to spend two and a half hours that under the twinkling stars of the an African sky, you really will feel the love.

Runs until July 2

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