THE Lion King, one of the highest-grossing musicals in history, can only be described as an instant classic created with the technical finesse that has come to be expected of Disney.
Three minutes into the opening number The Circle Of Life, I was moved to tears by the sheer sonic power of the show’s traditional African instruments and reverberating vocals.
Many of the film’s characters and scenery are expressed through feats of puppetry and masks, allowing humans to bring prowling lions, cackling hyenas and even swaying blades of grass to life. Antelopes frequently pranced across the stage, never losing their graceful impact.
The show maintains its energy for its entirety, even when themes and emotions changed from joyful to sorrowful, life to death, and drama to comedy.
Pushing through its 10th year with almost or fully sold-out shows globally, The Lion King is, as actor Josh Quong Tart puts it, “timeless”.
However, the show’s ongoing magic lies in its simplicity.
“The extraordinary conceptual design that [director] Julie Taymore has done with a universal story about a father and a son entering into the world to become a man, I think that just connects with people,” said Quong Tart, who plays the role of Scar (pictured above).
“It is simply told. It’s done with all of this audio-visual, which is mind-blowing seeing some technical gusto, but it is just so simply done… I think people really respond to that.”
The Lion King is Quong Tart’s first large- scale performance and it was the original film’s storyline that made him audition.
“I’ve never done a big musical before and I’d seen it [the musical] years ago and remembered the opening scene,” he said.
“I went back to the cartoon and said ‘oh, it’s such an extraordinary story,’ and the role of Scar I just thought ‘well, that’d just be an absolute corker.’”
Quong Tart added that he has always enjoyed playing the role of the villain: “I relish playing roles that are villainous. Villains, I think, are the best roles… let’s be honest: if you had to play the role of Mufasa or Scar who would you be?”
While Scar steals the show whenever he appears, sometimes cunning, others ferocious, Quong Tart did have his favourite scene.
“The whole last section I just love because it’s a real whirlwind. You’re running around and you get to just use your acting chops in that bit,” he said.
“You’re also doing a lot of running around on moving rocks so it’s sort of like you’re on a theme park going on rides to a certain extent.”
He also had some choice words to say about his dancing hyena ensemble: “I just love working with all those hyenas. The ensemble is just amazing and any chance I have to work with them as hyenas, I just have a ball.”
INFO: The Lion King is now showing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. Details and tickets at ticketmaster.com.au