It is in the opening moments of the staged musical version of The Lion King that the visual spectacle of puppetry and theater creates its own magic and literally takes flight. Birds soar above the audience while giraffes amble along amid lumbering elephants, graceful gazelles and other African creatures, all making their way toward Pride Rock. There, they pay homage to their lion king, Mufasa, on the birth of his son, Simba, while the strains of “Circle of Life” play on.
Those familiar with the 75-minute Disney movie will be dazzled by the feats of daring design within this two hour, 40 minute production that opened last Thursday night at the Milwaukee Theatre (Wednesday’s snowstorm cancelled the planned opening). Now entering its 11th year as a stage musical, The Lion King departs from other Disney musicals transported to the stage, note for note, scene for scene. Director Julie Taymor has created spectacular images of actors integrated into the shapes and forms of animals through the use of multidimensional large scale puppets, African masks and shadow puppetry. The effects are dazzling . . .