(the latest entry is always on top,
THERE ARE PERKS
2 May 2005
When one is a theatre critic, the range of quality of performances one sees varies widely from the downright awful to the truly spectacular. When one checks the price of tickets for The Lion King, one realizes that this is the payment for all those nights sweating over a review at 1 a.m., trying to be encouraging without being destructive toward a show that really, really had no business being on stage.
I'm not sure why the producers of The Lion King pulled out all the stops for critics for the touring production, which opened at the Sacramento Community Center last night. The show, from all reports, is already sold out, so whether the reviews are raves or pans, it will not affect ticket sales.
But the publicity person for the California Musical Theatre Company told me that they had released 200 reviewer tickets (presumaby this is 100 reviewers + guest). Perhaps a "thank you" for all of past reviews. But all the guys were there. All the usual reviewers, many of whom I have come to recognize, as well as all of the television anchorpersons. We usually see Jennifer Smith, of the ABC affiliate, and her daughter at the shows, but have never seen Alicia Malaby, from the CBS affiliate or husband and wife Dave Walker and Lois Hart from the NBC affiliate. They were all there last night.
The very first "big" show I reviewed was Beauty and the Beast, about five years ago. We rarely attended touring Broadway shows prior to that because tickets were just prohibitively expensive, even for the nosebleed section of the balcony. But there we were, sixth row center for this delightful production and I thought "I could learn to like this!"
Our seats have been moved around a bit since that time, never quite that close before, but never more than 12 rows back, which is much better than we ever would have purchased on our own.
So when I saw that we were in row D this time, I was amazed. Fourth row. I had never walked through that magic door where the A-E row people sat before. Not only fourth row, but I was on the new aisle they had created. During the parade of the amazing animals, designed by director/costume designer Julie Taymore, they walked right by me. I could have plucked the feathers off the birds or patted the rhino on his rump should I have tried.
Now, I have to confess that I am not a huge fan of The Lion King. We saw it in London (from the nosebleed section--and even that wasn't cheap) and once we'd gotten past the spectacle of it, I found the rest of it, especially Act 2, pretty ho-hum. I found myself drawn in a bit more to Act 1 this time too, but I still don't think much of Act 2, which seems to be a lot more "filler" than actual substance, no matter how visually exciting it may be (I was yawning before the finale).
However, if you accept that there's not a heck of a lot of substance to this Hamlet-on-the-Savannah tale to begin with, it can be enjoyed for the visual alone.
Taymore has designed unique costumes in which the performers become animals without losing their individuality as performers. Their bodies blend seamlessly into those of the animals, with no attempt whatsoever to hide the human being, yet still retaining the character of the animal.
You can see in this cheeta photo that the operator shares one leg with the animal and manipulates the front paws like a puppet.
In the case of the lions, they wear tall heads which either stand up on top of their heads, allowing them to speak/sing naturally...
But yet, when they are "lion-like," such as in attack mode, the heads pop forward, hiding the human face...
The whole thing is quite ingenious.
Sunday afternoon it was back to Sacramento for "5 Course Love," a comedy by Gregg Coffin at a much smaller theatre company. It was an enjoying bit of fluff, well performed and a nice quiet way to pass an afternoon.
Now comes the payoff for the lovely entertainment I've had in the past two days--two reviews to write before morning!
PHOTO OF THE DAY