Deen van Meer
The bottom line
After 20 years on Broadway, "The Lion King," remains one of the most popular musicals in the world. It's a stage adaptation of the 1994 animated Disney movie. A touring production is on stage now at Seattle's historic Paramount Theatre, with show dates through Jan. 6.
Adults and kids alike will be wowed by the 18-foot-tall giraffes, animal masks, colorful costumes and other life-sized animal puppets. The show is made even more magical by the score, which is a blend of Western music and the rhythms of Africa. The show is recommended for ages 6 and up.
The show begins with a call and response in Swahili, one of the six indigenous African languages spoken in the show. The Circle of Life song continues, with a full orchestra, as the animal puppets and actors parade right down the aisles, past audience members and onto the stage.
For me, the animal puppets were the highlight of the show. The tallest are the 18-foot-tall giraffes, operated by actors walking on stilts. There are also leaping gazelles, zebras, antelope and many more: in all, there are 25 different animals and insects represented in the show. The largest is an elephant, measuring at 13 feet in length and nine feet wide — it takes four actors to operate it.
But the production doesn’t rely on the puppets. The actors, singers and dancers show great skill in conveying this beloved story. The characters of Mufasa and Scar wear lion masks that sit above their heads, offering a unique view of both the human and the animal. We especially enjoyed the performances of young Simba and Zazu. Zazu is played by an actor carrying a bird puppet on his arm. Zazu, along with Timon and Pumbaa, provide many comedic moments.
From the amazing opening scene, and all the way to the end, we heard gasps, oohs and ahhs from the audience over and over. The combination of the puppets, sets, music and special effects made us feel like we were right there with Simba in the middle of the action, not just watching a show. I found this production of "The Lion King" truly a wonderful experience.
Tips for parents
- Arrive early! If you arrive once the show has begun, they won’t let you in for a bit so as not to disturb other patrons.
- Booster seats for littles are available on a first come, first served basis — another reason to arrive early.
- The restrooms are one floor down from the main entrance. I recommend hitting the restroom before the show. Restrooms are completely mobbed at intermission.
- The Paramount does not have an elevator, only stairs.
- While we didn't find any parts of the show super-scary, some children may find the scene where Scar kills Simba's father to be frightening. There are also those mean hyenas.
- The scene in which Mufasa dies is sad but not graphic. If you are unsure if your child can handle the story, watch the Disney movie version first. The storyline is basically the same.
- While parents may be anxious to share this live stage production with their young children, especially kids who may already be fans of the movie, consider the length of the show. It's 2.5 hours long with one 15-minute intermission. That's a long time to sit still.
- The first act is action-packed and the second act is a bit slower.
- Fun fact: While the musical group The Tokens made the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" famous with their recording in 1961, a South African musician named Solomon Linda wrote, recorded and achieved success with the original song in the 1930s and 40s.
If you go...
When: "Disney's The Lion King" plays almost daily (not Dec. 24 or 25) through Jan. 6, with matinees on some dates.
Where: The Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle.
Tickets: Buy tickets online through Ticketmaster; they're going fast. While the site states that tickets are $25 and up, the least expensive tickets available now appear to be $95 and then prices head into the hundreds. Note: There is a warning on the website about fraudulent tickets being sold; it's recommended to purchase only at the official link.
Getting there: The Paramount doesn’t have its own parking lot or garage. There is paid parking on the street, at several nearby lots and in parking garages at The Grand Hyatt’s 7th and Pike Street Garage, The Washington State Convention Center and in Pacific Place Mall. Note that garages clog up after shows and it can be very slow to exit. Street or surface-lot parking, transit or taxi/ride-hailing may suit better. Find more information on parking on directions at the Paramount website.
Age recommendation: The show is recommended for ages 6 and older.
Run time: The show lasts 2.5 hours including one 15-minute intermission.