‘The Lion King’ is playing four-week run at Popejoy

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It’s been long anticipated, but Disney’s “The Lion King,” is now playing at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque for a limited engagement of four weeks through Oct. 28.

“The Lion King” began as a 1994 animated feature-length film developed and produced by the Walt Disney Company. The story, a coming of age parable set among animals indigenous to its setting, the African savanna, tells the tale of Simba, the lion cub who rises to be the King of the Jungle.

Submitted photo β€˜The Lion King,’ a coming of age parable set among animals indigenous to the African savanna, tells the tale of Simba, the lion cub who rises to be the King of the Jungle, is playing a Popejoy Hall.

In musical theater, the music must do two main things: move and entertain, but also help the audience understand the characters and move the story forward.

In “The Lion King,” five songs by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, including “The Circle of Life,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Hakuna Matata,” will be performed, but for the stage version, more songs were needed to explore Simba’s growth and Nala’s courage.

The score for “The Lion King” blends the popular favorites with African rhythms into a seamless and completely new experience.

As the music brings the characters to life in one way, the costumes, masks and puppets is another. “The Lion King” is unique in that the audience will see how the magic works on stage. There is no attempt to cover up the wheels and cogs that make it all happen.

The human beings that control the puppets and wear the animal masks are fully seen. In Africa, masks are functional works of art. They are meant to be used; they perform a social function. Seen on a wall or on a table, a mask may seem dull and static, but when used in storytelling or a ceremony, it takes on life.

As in “The Lion King,” many African masks are made to be worn over the head instead of over the face. With the masks, Julie Taymor, director and designer, created what she calls “the double effect,” which enables the audience to see the characters as animal and human at the same time.

Mufasa’s mask weighs 11 ounces, Scar’s mask weighs seven ounces and Sarabi’s mask is just four ounces. The masks, along with many others in the show, are extremely lightweight.

There are 200 puppets in “The Lion King,” including rod puppets, shadow puppets and full-sized puppets. There are 100 ants on the Ant-Hill Lady costume, 45 wigs, 52 wildebeasts, 39 hyenas and 25 types of animals, birds, fish and insects represented in the show.

There are six indigenous African languages β€” Swahili, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana and Congolese β€” spoken in the show.

“The Lion King” is the sixth longest-running musical in Broadway history and has been seen by more than 54 million audience members. It has been translated into seven different languages and the show has been performed in 15 different countries on five continents.

The musical will play Tuesday through Sunday evenings, Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and a 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday matinee, and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays at Popejoy Hall.

During this Albuquerque engagement “The Lion King” North American tour will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Tickets are available at the Lobo Ticket Office at The Pit, at select Albertsons locations, by calling 925-5858 or 664-8661, or the UNM Ticket Office at the Bookstore. Ticket prices start at $52.50.

Student rush tickets are $27.50 each and are available one hour prior to curtain at the Popejoy Hall Box Office. To purchase, valid student ID is required, and there is a limit of one ticket per student. Student rush tickets will be available for all performances except Friday evenings, Saturday matinees and evenings and Sunday matinee.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.