Had the S.J. audience roaring with delight

By Iride Aparicio

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus  

Aaron Nelson as Adult “Simba” from the LION

Aaron Nelson as Adult “Simba” from the LION KING

San José, CA – “THE LION KING,” the Broadway San José a Nederlander Presentation,  National Tour © Disney, playing at the San José Center for the Performing Arts,  brings with it all the allurement of Africa.

Visually, it displays a plethora  of the colors of Africa in different forms: in the weaving of the elaborate patterns of the actors costumes (Julie Taymor),  in Nature’s different shades of green, in the shadows of the  ivory-color bones bones of the elephants' carcasses, and in each one of its sets (designed by Richard Hudson and lighted by Donald Holder) that display to our eyes a bright orange  sun setting the sky  on fire, and a dark night, almost black, sprinkled with, twinkling  stars.  
Rafiki (Mukelisiwe Goba)The musical, with book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, music and lyrics  by Elton John, and  Tim Rice, and additional Music & Lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor & Hans Zimmer, starts at dawn, with a shout from  Rafiki (Mukelisiwe Goba, pictured left) calling all the animals to Pride Rock to greet King Mufasa’s  and Queen Sarabi’s new Cub speaking in an African dialect.

After her call, she draws an orange circle with the picture of a cub lion at it center, on the trunk of the “Tree of Life,”and sings  “Circle of Life”  interacting her solo voice with a choir, in a Voice and response style, common in African music.  In her song's lyrics she tells us that from the day we arrive on this planet there is more to see than we can ever see and more to do that can ever be done, but that the “Circle of life” move us through despair and hope until till we find “our place” in the circle of life.

And the story begins, enhanced by music harmonized by the sound of drums.  choral singing, solo songs  and dances galore. And because all the action takes place in the African jungle, the jungle is represented on the stage by puppet birds flying over our heads, gazelles running, Giraffes, zebras, lionesses and even a life-size rhino and and a life-size  Elephant, that enter the stage crossing “The Animal trails” as Nancy Williams, the theatre’s General Manager called the aisles for this show, on the theatre's program.

And at the heart of the story we have two lions: Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) the King, and  Scar his brother (Patrick R. Brown)  pictured below.

Scar (Patrick R. Brown) 

And sadly, in this African paradise like in  the Shakespearean tragedies, there is treason in the kingdom, and an envious villain, whose greed puts murder in his mind who destroys the happiness of all the lions and the peace of mind of  prince Simba.  BJ Covington, the young actor who portrays Simba on this night, is a kid  small in size but big in talent. He plays his role with the excellence of an adult.  His dialogue and his performance are natural. As a young boy, he asks questions, laughs and  plays with his father. He wrestles with his young friend Nala ( Savanna Fleisher).  When his role turns dramatic, young Covington knows how to stay in character and he does it well.

There are no fairies to help our little hero in this fairy tale, but there are three wise advisors: One is ZaZu, a bird (Drew Hirshfield)  who is the King’s advisor and the person who watched over his young son. Simba finds his own advisors in two wise animals and unlikely friends: Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz) a wild boar, and Timon (Nick Cordileone) a linx, who singing and repeating  Hakuna Matata  teaches us not worry in the present for what we did in the past. His philosophy manages to put a happy ending to the story.

L-R    Nick Cordileone as “Timon” and Ben Liptz as Pumbaa
  L-R    Nick Cordileone as “Timon” and Ben Liptz as Pumbaa

In its presentation, this production of The Lion King is seamless. Its cast is superb. It includes: Rafiki (Goba) who gave the audience a true-to-life version of an African witch. Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) who acted royally as  the lion King, loving as a father, and brave as a warrior until the end.. Another excellent performances were given by:  Patrick R. Brown, who seem to have absorbed in his veins his villain’s role, Nick Cordileone, who made us believe Timon was real, Ben Lipitz as Pumbaa and Drew Hirshfield as the  wisecracking Say-so. Aaron Nelson who played the role as adult Simba convincingly and sang his songs in a soft mellow voice and Nia Holloway, who as the adult “Nala” lived up to her role.  

Nia Holloway as “Nala” and the “Lionesses” in “Shadowland”
 Nia Holloway as “Nala” and the “Lionesses” in “Shadowland”

With such an excellent cast  is was only “natural” that on Opening Night,  even  the audience of  THE LION KING  “roared”… with delight,

THE LION KING will play at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts until October 4.  To purchase tickets go to TICKETMASTER.COM or charge them by phone by calling 800 – 982-ARTS