Schuster Center prepares for ‘Lion King’ musical

5 reasons we just can’t wait to see ‘Lion King’

The “King” is back.

Having delivered a marvelous four-week premiere engagement in 2011 that played sold-out houses at the Schuster Center, Disney’s “The Lion King” returns to Dayton for another four-week run.

Expect eye-catching spectacle, brilliant stagecraft and a relatable story that touches the heart. The latest national tour of the six-time, 1998 Tony Award-winning musical roars at the Schuster June 7 through July 3.

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Here are five reasons why you should see this one-of-a-kind blockbuster.

Aaron Nelson as “Simba” and Nia Holloway as “Nala” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney | Photo by Matthew Murphy.

1. BE PART OF A HEROIC JOURNEY

Based on the 1994 Disney film of the same name, “The Lion King” tells the relatable story of Simba, a lion prince thwarted by his scheming uncle Scar who must fight to take his rightful place as king following the death of his father Mufasa. In the face of adversity, Simba discovers and relies on the power of his ancestry to obtain a promising future. “‘Lion King’ is a common hero’s journey that you see in such popular movies like ‘Star Wars,’ ” said Aaron Nelson who portrays Simba. “It’s a story of accomplishment and going through things you sometimes don’t want to deal with. It’s about finding the strength and courage to do what you have to do.”

Mukelisiwe Goba as “Rafiki” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney | Photo by Matthew Murphy

2. EXPERIENCE SOUTH AFRICAN CULTURE

Building on the film’s foundation, the stage version takes a greater, purposeful look at the African essence of the storytelling, particularly in such characters as Rafiki, the wise shaman. In fact, there are six indigenous African languages spoken in the show including Swahili (“hakuna matata” means “no worries” in Swahili), Zulo, Sotho, and Congolese. Distinct African rhythms bolster such numbers as “They Live In You,” “One By One” and “Shadowland.” Also, six of the 49 cast members are South African. Over 200 South Africans have been a part of one or more of the show’s eight global productions.

3. SEE MAGICAL OPENING NUMBER

Undoubtedly “Circle of Life” is among the best opening numbers in the history of American musical theater. Beginning as a series of exuberant calls announcing Simba’s birth, the ingenious sequence gradually builds to searing, applause-inducing heights as the cast storms the aisles to full, animal-inspired effect. Don’t be surprised if the sheer awe of the moment overwhelms you to the point of tears. It is simply theatrical magic at its finest and most imaginative.

Mukelisiwe Goba as “Rafiki” and Aaron Nelson as “Simba.” ©Disney | Photo by Matthew Murphy.

4. WITNESS A VISUAL SPECTACLE

The visual splendor of “Lion King” is in a league of its own. In fact, Tony-winning director/designer Julie Taymor, along with designer Michael Curry, hand sculpted and painted every prototype mask that appears in “Circle of Life.” Also, the two giraffes in “Circle of Life” are 14 feet high and feature two actors trained in stilt-walking who must climb 6-foot ladders to fit inside the puppets. The largest and longest animal in the show is the Elephant, which requires four actors to operate the 13 feet long and 9 feet wide puppet. With the masks, Taymor created what she calls “the double event,” which enables the audience to see the characters as animal and human simultaneously. “The movement in the show is extremely stylized,” Nelson said.

Nia Holloway as “Nala” and “The Lionesses” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney | Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

5. GET UPLIFTED

Translated into eight different languages and seen by more than 85 million theatergoers worldwide, “The Lion King” leaves audiences with an uplifting and impactful sense of hope. “The moral of the story is that there’s always light at the end,” Nelson said. “There’s also an unspoken something about the show that connects with the audience because it’s such an extremely human story.”

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