‘The Lion King’ Broadway’s Award-Winning Best Musical comes to Peoria

Evan Williamson, Courier Staff

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The Lion King Broadway Show made its way to Peoria, IL for the first time as part of Peoria Civic Centers Ameren Illinois Broadway Series. The Lion King movie was released in 1994 and was very successful (one of the more popular Disney movies). In 1997 a musical based on the film debuted in Minnesota on July 8, 1997. An instant success, the show made its way to Broadway officially opening November 13, 1997 and is now the third longest-running Broadway show. Like the original film, the Broadway show has been very successful winning many awards including six Tony Awards in 1998 (including Best Musical), eight Drama Desk Awards in 1998, Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 1999, and is currently the highest-grossing Broadway show in history.

Now I will say I am biased in two ways towards this production, I grew up with the Lion King (came out the same year I was born) so when the voices are not what I’m used to it’s not as good, however, on the other hand with it being The Lion King and having listened to the Broadway soundtrack for a few years I had other expectations. When the show opened with the start of the Circle of Life I got a little choked up. Not only was it so beautiful, but I’ve been wanting to see this show for 20 years ever since I saw a preview of it on the Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride VHS tape. The choreography is incredible, and the costumes are unlike any other, most of them including some type of puppetry element. I love different cultures and languages, the costumes, designs and even a lot of the dancing are heavily influenced by African culture. As far as the languages go like the film the Broadway show has a number of African languages in it. According to the Behind the Scenes of The Lion King on Broadway article six indigenous African languages are spoken throughout the musical, these include Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Congolese, and Xhosa, also called the “click language”. The music is arranged and performed by the South African composer Lebo M who was involved in the film series. It also features music and lyrics from the film written by Sir. Elton John and Tim Rice, as well as Score by Hans Zimmer. The show includes all your favorite songs and a few new ones as well including He Lives in You which becomes the Circle of Life type opening for the second film. Two of these new songs have words added to some of the original score “Endless Night” comes from some of the music in Under the Stars (song eight of the original film soundtrack) and my personal favorite “Shadowland” which comes from “Lea Halalela” (Holy Lands) from the1995 Rhythm of the Pride lands soundtrack. There is a deleted scene in the original film that had been added to the Broadway show where basically Nala tries to reason with Scar because the overhunting is killing the Pride lands, Scar at this point is going mad as the tile of the scene/song is the Madness of King Scar. Scar tries to make Nala his queen, but she refuses, unable to reason with Scar she runs away to get help. This is where Shadowland comes in and its such a powerful song I get goosebumps just thinking about this song, it is basically a prayer and a promise. The song is a song of lament and hope. Nala is leaving to get help so she is asking for prayer “And where the journey may lead me. Let your prayers be my guide. I cannot stay here my family. But I’ll remember my pride.” The lionesses end up returning words to her as a prayer.In the middle of the song, Rafiki prays with Nala before she leaves. as Nala leaves the lionesses continue to pray and Nala makes a promise “I will return… Giza Buyabo”. If this song or at least scene isn’t in the 2019 Lion King live-action remake I will be upset. There were a couple things I didn’t care about during the show, a few years back they took out the song Morning Report to make the show shorter and flow better. The other thing I didn’t like and I’m going to give them the benefit of doubt for this one, some of the songs seemed either just a little shorter or some of the dialogue was cut from what the soundtrack has, but for now I put that blame directly on the Peoria Civic Center who scheduled Keith Urban at the same time resulting in traffic problems and confusion which resulted in the show starting late. But other than that, it was a great show and I will definitely go see it again if given a chance.

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