You can definitely feel the love every night as one of the most beloved musical productions returns to Toronto’s Princess of Whales Theatre where The Lion King’s original run began in 1999 and lasted almost four years.
The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s iconic music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice. The resulting sound of THE LION KING is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to the haunting ballad “Shadowland.”
The cast in this touring production all have their roots in the show and you can see how they embody their characters and how to play with the audience; down to their ability to weave in a Raptor’s mention. Along with great theatrical performances from the cast as a whole, each of their voices carries through the theatre providing an enchanting experience, no matter where you’re seated. This is a great adaptation where the additional songs add so much character and emotion to the overall piece and also allow each character to showcase their vocal talents.
Canadian Deidrea Halley attended Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts in Toronto. She received ‘the call’ to join the show while she was still in high school. The Toronto company of The Lion King was her first professional job in 2002/2003….making it her first of six Lion King companies to be involved in! This is Deidrea’s 3rd time performing at The Princess of Wales Theatre and was also in the Toronto production of We Will Rock You and shares additional insights to the performance.
@thesceneinto: The Lion King is now one of the longest continuous running shows, what do feel keeps audiences coming back?
@DeidreaHalley: The story, the spectacle and the familiarity. It is a timeless story and everyone can connect to most, if not all of it. A story about life, coming of age, love, loss, fighting for what you want, determination and success will never get stale. It is a story that most people know and love. I for one still feel its power when I perform “Circle of Life.” It is a special piece of art. It moves people. And people want to feel!
@thesceneinto: When you start to rehearse for the role, was there a challenge with the puppets? I could imagine it adds a layer of difficulty to the performance. How long did it take for them to blend in?
@DeidreaHalley: The puppets always bring on great challenge. They are introduced to us after we get a “blueprint” of the dancing and movements we are supposed to do. As a dancer, it almost seems like it will be impossible to leap gracefully through the air holding two gazelles in each arm and one mounted on your head! We’ve had to learn to just treat the puppets as extensions of ourselves. As with everything, practice makes perfect. It definitely takes time to get comfortable with a puppet. Each puppet is so different and requires “mirror time” so you can see yourself and connect what you are doing so it becomes intrinsic. I’d say it takes about a month to really figure out the puppets. But only time, patience and practice will truly make them come to life and look so effortless. Even though we perform every night with them, it is sort of a constant work in progress. That’s where the puppetry comes in, and always striving to make them come to life!
The show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success. The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor has in recent years supervised new productions of the show around the world. Her art comes to life in every scene and every scene is a piece of art.
The Lion King plays for a limited run at the Princess of Whales Theatre from June 13 to August 4, 2019. Tickets are on sale online www.mirvish.com or by Phone 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333.
“The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING. ©Disney. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg.