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“The Lion King” Roars into Richmond, Wowing Families at Altria Theater

When Disney’s The Lion King first came to town in 2012, it set new attendance records at the Altria (then Landmark) Theater. Look for the wildly popular musical to do that again this run. The award-winning show, presented by Broadway in Richmond, opened last week and runs through May 8.

Like the mighty king of the jungle, The Lion King is at the top of its game when it comes to creativity and innovation. The show immerses you into the story it weaves not only through great acting and singing, but also through music, scenery, puppetry, and lighting. The show’s seamless flow of action sweeps you up like swirling waters and transports you to the magical world of Africa and the Pridelands.

Mukelisiwe Goba as Rafiki in Disney’s The Lion King [Photo by Matthew Murphy]
Mukelisiwe Goba as Rafiki in Disney’s The Lion King [Photo by Matthew Murphy]
The ever-changing colors in the show reflect not only the action but also the pageantry and spirit of the play. Birds fly, grasses sway to the gentle breeze, and the animals of the land parade by in grand spectacle.

On one hand the show is larger than life, on the other it is about life. The musical starts and ends with the triumphant song “Circle of Life,” which teaches us about an everlasting love that lingers and grows even after this life on earth ends. It is the story of Simba, a young lion in line to be king who is devastated by the loss of his father. We see Simba and his friend, Nala, grow up before our eyes, learning the way of the world and the true meaning of the “Circle of Life.” Simba, who runs away from life after his father’s death, finally realizes with the help of Rafiki, a wise mystic, that his father’s memory lives in him. He understands now that he has to return to life and live up to his potential as king.

The cast in this touring production breathes life into each character. Their movements are effortless, highlighting their skill and finesse. On opening night Young Simba (Julian Rivera-Summerville) and Young Nala (Imani Pullum) were as cute and energetic as the lion cubs they portrayed. Simba (Aaron Nelson) and Nala (Nia Holloway) brought a world of talent to the stage. Scene-stealers included the energetic Rafiki (Mukelisiwe Goba), the delightful red-billed hornbill Zazu (Drew Hirshfield), the comic duo of meerkat Timon (Nick Cordileone) and warthog Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz), and the evil lion Scar (Patrick R. Brown).

This wonderful family show is not to be missed. Due to the length, it is recommended for children ages five and up. Disney’s The Lion King runs through May 8 at Altria Theater.

Click here and use code FAMILY to buy three tickets and get one free with a special discount offer. This savings code is good only on week night performances through May 4 and cannot be applied to previous purchases.

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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