ALBQUERQUE— “The Lion King” musical, based on the 1994 Walt Disney animation of the same name, is in its final week of production at Popejoy Hall at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
It is the highest-grossing and the third longest-running Broadway production of all time, grossing almost $2 billion since its debut in 1997.
The show uses dazzling costumes for exotic animals and the actor’s use of the theater space aids in the popularity and longevity of the musical.
The musical entertains people of all ages and follows the original movie plot with the addition of a few songs, while still including all the original Elton John and Tim Rice music and songs.
Interestingly, there are six indigenous African languages spoken or sung in the show.
“The Lion King” musical stands out for its amazing costumes and puppets. Actors on stage use innovative tools to control the life-sized, human-operated animal puppets along with shadow and pole puppets. According to the official website, it took a staggering 37,000 hours to build the masks and the 232 puppets used in the production.
The musical features several imaginative costumes, such as people dressed in giraffe costumes using stilts on their hands and feet to walk around, other types of giraffes in the show stood at a whopping 18-feet tall.
The actors who portrayed the lions, Scar and Mufasa, wore intricate mechanical headpieces that could be raised or lowered to imitate lions. The hyenas, on the other hand, had oversized masks that depicted the wickedly silly animals’ characteristics and mannerisms, as seen in the movie.
“The Lion King” production uses every inch of the theater available to put on the spectacle. People in full-sized elephant costumes stroll down the isles between the audience and the actors sing from balconies on the sides of the stage throughout the show.
During the show, whenever one of the crowd’s favorite songs, such as “Hakuna Matata” or “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” began playing, the audience couldn’t resist singing along quietly (or even loudly, as I did with my son).
This was a spectacularly fun show for the whole family and if you miss it this time around make sure you go check it out next time it returns. It is worth every dollar to see the children’s eyes twinkle with excitement.
“The Lion King” continues at Popejoy Hall through Sunday, Nov. 5. Purchase tickets at popejoypresents.com.
Jesse Jones lives in Albuquerque with his wife and son. Jesse graduated from of the University of New Mexico twice. This spring, he graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism and, in 2006, he received a bachelor’s degree in university studies with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a current fellow of the New Mexico Local News Fund.