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London

From the bright lights of the West End and Theatreland to the smart streets of Kensington and Chelsea and the busy bustle of the City and Canary Wharf, London is a great, sprawling melting pot of a city, a fascinating blend of history and modernity.
And 2012 has been an exciting year for the city, with the London Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee both being a storming success.

Lion King in London Lyceum

PAINTED LIFE-SIZE baby elephants are appearing all across London and one has been especially created to celebrate Lion King’s 11 years in the West End. If you haven’t already seen this Disney classic, what are…

PAINTED LIFE-SIZE baby
elephants are appearing all across London and one has been especially created
to celebrate Lion King’s 11 years in the West End. If you haven’t already seen
this Disney classic, what are you waiting for?

 

Unless you’ve been walking around the
capital with your eyes closed, you will no doubt have seen a whole host of
colourful baby elephants brightening up the streets.

From HRH Princess Michael of Kent to Sir
Paul Smith and Julien Macdonald, the great and good have decorated 250 life-size
baby elephants for the Elephant Parade (until 4 July) in aid of Elephant
Family, a charity shining a spotlight on crisis faced by the endangered Asian
elephant.

British artist Sacha Jafri (pictured above, bottom left), famed for his
brightly-coloured canvases and hailed by art critics and collectors as one of
the world’s leading contemporary artists
, spent 200 hours painting his
elephant
(pictured above, top left) which takes its inspiration from Disney’s The Lion King, and is
situated in Covent Garden piazza, just moments from the Lyceum Theatre, where
the award-winning musical is currently celebrating its 11th year in the West
End.

As Sacha himself admits, “I am inspired by the magical world of
storytelling and adventure that is Disney; and in creating this work I wanted
to pay homage to the bright and beautiful world of The Lion King. As the
stage show does, this piece aims to surprise the senses, to uplift the soul and
seduce the spirit, to ignite and energise, to remind us of our dream world and
to encourage us to adventure on beyond our world, to make the over-familiar
magical again.”

He couldn’t have
described the show better and if you are yet to see it, book now. As a fan of
the 1994 film I was intrigued how 
Julie Taymorcould possibly transfer such a story to
the stage and apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to see past ‘people dressed
as animals’. I am pleased to report that within five minutes of the opening
song, Circle of Life, where gazelles leap and an elephant lumbers its way
through the auditorium, I was entranced. The costumes, masks and puppets are
superb.

For those unaware of the story (surely
you’re in the minority?)
,
the action follows the adventures of the lion cub Simba (Andile Gumbi, pictured above), as he
struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and his destined role of
king. Along the way he meets meercat, Timon (Nick Mercer), and warthog, Pumbaa
(Keith Bookman), and falls in love with lioness Nala (Gloria Onitiri). Cue
audience singalong favourites, Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel The Love Tonight.

The original
score from the animated film has been expanded for the stage and now features
15 musical numbers, including three new songs by Elton John and Tim Rice. My favourite remains Be Prepared, performed by Simba’s evil uncle Scar
(George Asprey) who, for me, stole the show and is at the heart of a scene I
couldn’t wait to see on stage – the wildebeast stampede. I won’t ruin it for
you by telling you how they do it but, believe me, it’s worth the wait and is
just as dramatic and heartstopping as the film.

With
performances like this, the pride of the West End is going nowhere.

For further details see: www.elephantparadelondon.org and
www.thelionking.co.uk. Report by Sarah Hiscock.

Images courtesy of Johan Persson © Disney/Helen Maybanks/Sacha Jafri.






 

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