This past month, I had the amazing opportunity to watch The Lion King musical at the Minskoff Theater on Broadway. It honestly feels like I am forever changed. This feeling arises when I see live theatre shows, when I see folks singing, dancing and creating such beautiful art on stages with so much heart. My heart feels like its exploding and I am overcome with I can’t even explain it, with gratitude and inspiration and tremendous joy. I feel so lucky to have seen this play. It costs a lot and I feel really blessed to have a partner who generously paid for my ticket. I haven't seen a lot of musicals and I feel like the ones I have seen have profoundly affected me and touched me so deeply. The theatricality of the Lion King, omg the singing was impeccable, the harmonies, all the voices and the orchestra blew my mind. The use of lighting, puppets, and shadows ohhh it was so gorgeous.
Here is a list of the cast http://www.broadway.com/shows/the-lion-king/cast/
Adult Nala- Chantel Riley and Adult Simba- Jelani Remy, their voices, holy shit blew me away. Chantel Riley’ singing, her voice was so amazing, the range and the tones and the theatrical playful sounds, I don’t even have words. Getting to witness that level of skill and passion was life changing.
The Character who played Rafiki-Tshidi Manye her voice was so amazing, the range and the tones and the theatrical playful sounds, incredible and her costume. All the costumes really, they were so beautiful. I was literally in the back row of the theatre and I could still tell how intricate and beautiful all the costumes were. Absolutely amazing. All the animal costumes, the ways they flowed with folks bodies and how skilled people were at navigating these giant costumes, the giraffes, elephants, antelope etc. Some of the dancers were blades of grass and their limbs swayed with the wind. At one point dancers were patches of grass which were squares that sat on their heads and the lions jumped and ran through them, it was done so well. It’s been running since 1997, so they have had a few years to perfect all of the aspects of the show. The colours, the textures, the use of different mediums, ohh the artist in me was so inspired. And the set, Omg set designs were impeccable; they used the aisles in the audience as their stage for multiple scenes. There were levels that came out of the floor. The use of lighting, puppets, and shadows ohhh it was so gorgeous. It was all so brilliant. The colours, omg I love bright colours, the amazing use of lighting and all the fabrics, textures in the clothing and costumes. From looking at the bios and the folks in the production about 85% - 90% of the cast were black folks.
From the reading that I did, Lebo M is a South African composter, and he helped arranged and performed the music in the play. Throughout the play there are many different Indigenous African languages spoken and sung such as: Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Congolese and Xhosa,
Theatre is such a magical place. It was rad to see so many kids of colour, spesifically black kids in the audience and afterwards taking pictures with the costumes. Young Nala and Simba were about 10 years old and they were so great. And one of my favourite characters the baby elephant was played by a young black girl! The importance of representation and seeing yourself on stage, planting seeds of “I can do this” and “this is possible for me”. Recognizing this is a very specific play and that folks could get type cast. The roles can be limited for people of colour on stages and I recognize that. Something my partner and I also talked about was, there were a lot of white folks in the audience and non black poc. What does it mean for white folks and for me as a brown person to be consuming all the songs, the clothing the dialects that are in languages I don’t understand or and am not connected too? What does it mean for all those white folks, having their white gaze upon all of this black made, created, art that comes from thriving cultures, groups of people in different parts of Africa? Also recognizing Elton John a white gay man wrote alot the songs in the play, that is starring a mostly black cast. These are Important things to think about and recognize, While consuming this piece of theatre. Who is actually profiting off this show? The tickets are soooo expensive. I literally sat in the back row of the enormous theatre and we still paid so much money. Who has access to this kind of art?
I loved watching this play witnessing and learning afterwards the majority of the folks on that stage were Black actors, singers, dancers, actresses, and artists! I know the arts isn’t such a lucrative field to go into but I hope that folks keep paying all that money to see the show, and that large chunks of the money go to all the amazing black artists. Look them up; support their art, I feel so lucky to have seen this show. My eyes welled up as soon as the show started. I think I was crying for most of it.
Check out these links:
Lion King Trailer
This is just the best!! THE LION KING Broadway Cast Takes Over NYC Subway and Sings 'Circle Of Life'
The Lion King Broadway LIVE London Palladium 2016
THE LION KING (West End) - "He Lives in You" live
As I mentioned I haven’t watched a lot of plays and musicals in my life, that is changing and I am able to afford and have access to theatre.
Keep supporting Black Indigenous & Artists of Colour. I hope everyone gets a chance to see & create & witness art forms that make your heart soar, that remind you what it means to be alive, that touch you so deeply in the depths of your body and soul. What kind of art does this for you? What experiences make you feel like this in your life? Seek them out? Have you experienced a feeling like this lately?
Watching this show was life changing. It was so inspiring & beautiful and touched me so deeply
thx for reading!
<3 Jotika Chaudhary