now in previews: “The Great Mouse Detective” (the musical)

This is a review of The Lion King, helmed by Julie Taymor (that’s really all you need to know), now in previews its thirteenth year on Broadway at the Minskoff Theater.

If it's good enough for Dana Whitaker...

In the episode “The Quality of Mercy at 29K” of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant and unheralded series Sports Night, Felicity Huffman’s Dana Whitaker takes her niece to see The Lion King on Broadway.  Putting aside the corporate synergy (mouse ears on, everybody!), Whitaker has this to say:

“The lights go down, and this woman with a voice like thunder–  this woman, she summons all the animals of the jungle to appear and honor the birth of the new lion king.  She summons the animals with her voice, and do you know – do you know what happens next?”

Ye,s of course there’s more (“The animals come!”), but suffice to say Dana Whitaker’s over the moon, she’s snowed, it’s typically mellifluous and enjoyably word-y Sorkinese.   She is, to paraphrase the theme of all great Sorkin work, amazed at what we can do.

Yesterday afternoon the folks and I took my niece to see The Lion King, and thirteen years later, well, boy does it hold up.  I had goosebumps when the elephant puppets, giraffe puppets, and enough animals that Noah wouldn’t be disappointed enter the theater.  It’s a true wonder, and obviously credit goes to Julie Taymor.

We're a long way from here.

Ah, Julie Taymor!  That visionary mask and puppetry artist that I heard about incessantly from her biographer Eileen Blumenthal during my Theatre History days in undergrad.  And while her film work is a missed bag (Titus, Across the Universe), and she’s reportedly having more trouble than Sony getting Peter Parker to hum a tune, The Lion King, of all things, is brilliant theatre.

And, well, I guess, why shouldn’t it be–  it’s Hamlet on the Savannah.  And if some of the vaudeville schtick that Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella milked so well in the flick doesn’t translate as charmingly (those moments go a bit fast for musical comedy, and the show spends its time being impressive), well, it is impressive.  The costumes!  The ingenious puppets!  The masks!  The lights!  The actors, who move with such grace!  The dancing!  Even the music!

We're even further from here.

Christopher Isherwood has a good piece in yesterday’s Times, discussing the man,y many problems with the Great White Way’s current tuners (it’s a good piece because it echoes the sentiments I made earlier).  Last night, of course, was the Tony Awards, and yet the spectacle that doesn’t sacrifice heart or intelligence that I saw yesterday afternoon was better than any of the shows I saw excerpted last night.  Even without a kid, or even thirteen years late, get yourself to The Lion King:  Like Sports Night‘s Dana Whitaker, you’ll be amazed at what we can do.

It's this, but with, you know, lions.

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One Response to “now in previews: “The Great Mouse Detective” (the musical)”

  1. Go See This Play (Please) « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] See This Play (Please) By thiswaytotheegress Though we here at This Way To The Egress review theater, it’s not so often we simply promote it (especially when tonight is ‘Mexican Food for […]

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