Tema International School’s production of “The Lion King” is a beautiful piece of theatre commissioned by the school to mark their 10th anniversary. Proceeds from the show go towards the purchase of a CT scan machine and refurbishment of the Children’s Ward of the Tema General Hospital.
Inspired by Julie Taymor’s incredible Broadway version of the Disney classic, the creative team behind the TIS production pulls out all the stops with extravagant costumes, set pieces, lighting and projections. The production design was particularly commendable; it was evident that much careful thought had gone into the design and execution of the set, costume and make-up design. The lion clan in particular was resplendent in golden fabrics, Dutch prints and raffia, a wonderfully cohesive design choice that really resonated throughout the whole piece.
The first number, the famous opening scene where Rafiki sings “The Circle of Life” was singularly impressive, as the surprised audience was introduced to the show by cast members singing from the balcony, introducing a massive parade of larger-than-life animals: elephants, zebras, giraffes on stilts, hippos, birds swooping overhead, antelopes attached to arms, porcupines and giant butterflies. The scene, ending with the Baby Simba presented to the skies in the presence of the whole animal kingdom, started the show on a definitively high note.
We were pleasantly surprised by the level of performance from a cast comprised completely of student actors. They had obviously done a lot of character and voice work for their characters, although there was a fair amount of “slanging” going on. We were especially impressed by the uninhibited performance by the young and skittish Simba. There was a good level of athleticism amongst the cast in running and fighting scenes, although hearing the impact from a couple of choreographed falls had us cringing in our seats. The singing received a pass for the most part, with the strongest vocal performances coming from the actresses who played Rafiki and Shenzi, the lead female hyena.
This production was an immense breath of fresh air, and is a prime example of what is possible when producers invest in a solid creative team. We hope to see more of this work done in the city!
The Lion King’s final showing is 7pm tonight at the National Theatre.