Not all costumes are created equal, and there aren’t many as elaborate or amazing as those on display in “The Lion King,” on stage at ASU Gammage through Nov. 17. The magnificent costumes depict a variety of life in the African jungle — the sleek leopard, the leaping antelope, the lumbering elephant and the roaring lion — and each one is more fantastic than the last, especially when they parade down the aisles in the opening sequence of “The Circle of Life.”
“It’s not your grandfather’s kids show,” said Ben Lipitz, who’s played Puumba in the touring cast for the last 11 years. “The representation of life is so immense, especially in the opening number. The first six minutes of the show are breathtaking because you lose sight of the fact that these are human beings creating animal movements within a form that heightens the sensibilities even more,” he said. “We really are ‘Lion King’ in 3D.”
The story, following that of the 1994 Disney movie almost word for word, is a simple one of a young lion who must take responsibility for his family and community when his father dies.
“It’s timeless and relates to all types of cultures world-wide,” said Nia Holloway, who plays the young lioness Nala.
Though this is Holloway’s first experience with Broadway, she has quite the musical pedigree. Her grandmother, soul singer Loleatta Holloway, recorded the song “Love Sensations” and was featured in the number one hit “Good Vibrations” and her great-grandmother, Sylvia Shemwell, was part of Elvis’ background group and opening act, The Sweet Inspirations. It comes as no surprise that Holloway brings a powerhouse voice to the role, leaving audiences with some of the most memorable moments in the show.
Holloway, who turned 18 last month and is accompanied on tour by her dad, who also functions as her vocal coach, said there’s not much she doesn’t like about her role.
“I love Nala’s character because she’s young and powerful. She’s strong but she has vulnerability. She’s like a teenager but her setting is a jungle. She has to leave her family — so I know what that’s like, I had to leave my mom and sisters (to go on tour),” Holloway said.
Family is a big theme in this show and it is a great one for parents, grandparents and kids to experience together.
“Families bring their kids expecting it to be very pedestrian and their expectations are blown away by the representation of life,” Lipitz said.
So whether you’re a theatre veteran or newbie, this is one show to cross off your bucket list while you can.
IF YOU GO
What: ”The Lion King”
When: 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Nov. 5-8; runs through Nov. 17.
Where: ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe.
Information: (480) 965-3434 or asugammage.com.