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'The Lion King' is mind-blowingly awesome!

Photo credit:
Broadway San Diego

The one thing you have to give Disney is they know how to put on a great show, and “The Lion King,” playing through October 2, at the Civic Theatre is an all-out assault on the senses both musically, and visually in every bit of its two-and-a-half hour runtime. 

It also says something when the theater warns late-comers they won't be allowed in until after the massive opening number "Circle of Life."

But trust me, arrive late to this show and you’ll have missed one of the biggest showstoppers in Broadway history.

"The Lion King" is Disney's version of "Hamlet," but for those of you who don’t know the story, here’s a brief synopsis:

Young Simba the lion is heir to the throne for a large part of the African Pride Lands, and his father Mufasa wants him to understand that in order to become a leader he must think before he reacts.

Meanwhile Mufasa’s envious brother Scar wants to reign supreme over the pride, but knows he never will as long as Simba is still alive.

After one plan to take Simba’s life fails (the astounding "Be Prepared), the evil Scar hatches another, this time plotting to take out both incumbents in a wildebeest stampede.

After an act of betrayal by Scar, Simba filled with guilt, flees the Pride Lands and embarks on an adventure with a meercat named Timon (Nick Cordileone) and a warthog named Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz).

The journey is filled with enlightenment and salvation as the trio mature in the safety of the jungle.

This production is so jam-packed with technical details one is never sitting without something to either look at or listen to.

It’s no wonder this production is now in its 18th year.

Enacted with spectacular puppets, "The Lion King" leaves you breathless in an artistic strangle hold you will never forget.

There are over 200 puppets in the show the tallest being 18-feet high, the longest 13-feet, each movement finely-tuned by dancers and acrobats. 

Some contrivances are attached to the human actors as masks and in Pumbaa an Timon's case, puppet costumes attached to their bodies. 

If you thought that seeing the puppeteers would be a distraction, you might be surprised to find yourself looking past that after the first few minutes.

Taking in to account that there are 49 cast members you get the picture that yes, this is a masterpiece to behold.

Of course the songs are all there, plus a few created just for the show.

One addition is "They Live in You." It's an emotional ballad sung by Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) that wasn't in the original movie, but in its sequel. 

Ramsey is stoic as Mufasa and though his voice isn't as deep as "King" original James Earl Jones, given that the production tries to create the nuances of each character from the film, he still manages to vocally manipulate pulleys attached to your heartstrings.

Young Simba, played her by B.J. Covington captures the true essence of a young heir motivated by feline curiosity throwing common sense to the wind which eventually gets him into trouble. 

The older Simba undertaken by Aaron Nelson for this production evolves into a true leader after his time with the irresponsible (but hilarious) Pumbaa and Timon, eventually guided by the baboon shaman Rafiki (Buyi Zama) that his past does not his future make. 

The homogenized storyline is not what matters here though, in fact it is made to seem more complicated in its diversity thanks to the massive amounts of ensemble members brought together in perfectly choreographed harmony and technical wizardry. 

One example of this is yet another spectacular number involving lioness Nala (Nia Holloway), who sings "Shadowland," a haunting ballad equally matched by its accompanying dance ensemble,

Even the lighting by Donald Holder is a composition of detailed storytelling and tense drama. 

If you have been saving to watch that one perfect musical which brings together the grand scale of sets, music, performances and visually striking elements onto the stage, make the purchase and go see "The Lion King."

It is a gigantic production that will knock the wind out of you, sending you from the theater spellbound and thoroughly satisfied.

There is truly nothing like it. 

For details and show times for "The Lion King" playing at the Civic Theatre through Oct. 2, click HERE.