The first five minutes of "The Lion King" at QPAC are surely the most effective opening to any musical theatre event anywhere in the world.
Beginning with a challenging chant, and the threnody of drums, through the theatre come soaring birds, antelopes, cheetahs, giraffes, and a swaying elephant – all powered by people and all beautiful and convincing. From side to side of the theatre comes call and response, and an overwhelming sense of the celebration of mother Africa.
Having seen the London performance shortly after its opening, and then a later Sydney performance, I wondered if the QPAC show could retain impact and freshness.
Its puppetry, dance, rhythm and song were wonderful. Costumes were spectacularly good. The hyenas pitched perfectly their balance between comedy and menace. The warthog and meerkat double act provided welcome light relief and great knockabout comedy.
Buyi Zama's Rafiki is a stand-out. Not only can she sing the African "click" songs, but her stentorian voice filled the theatre with authority. Andre Jewson is terrific as the snooty Zazu. For the most part the singing was good, though not outstanding. The youthful Simba is a promising actor, dancer and singer, and the adult Simba (Nick Afoa) very much looked and acted the part while having a beautiful singing voice, which perhaps lacked the projection at times to be heard over everything else going on.
Small quibbles however in a production which engaged from beginning to end, holding spellbound their new audience of young children through to their older audience of wrinkles, back for maybe the second or the third time over thirty years.
"The Lion King" is booked into QPAC at least until the end of January, and possibly for longer. It is well worth a visit.
Go on, spoil yourself.
It is what it is, and what it is is great entertainment.