Naaaaaaants ingonyamaaa bagithi Baba.
I’m fairly sure that everyone who has seen the Lion King has sung that at the top of their lungs once or twice. The Circle of Life is one of the most iconic songs in the entire history of Disney and one of my personal favourites as well. I adore the music in this film, so when we were able to get discounted tickets to see the West End stage version, I was thrilled.
We were also lucky enough to get a VIP package included, which certainly made us feel special.
Is the musical better than the film? Is the VIP package worth the money? Where should you sit, and which seats are the best value? All will be revealed.
Very Important Theatre-goers
Normally theatre tickets are expensive enough without adding a programme, drinks or ice cream at the interval on top of the price. This time we were lucky enough to get a package for free (thanks to my friend’s connections rather than any sponsorship – though Lion King, if you’re reading this, I will happily accept a free trip!).
They made us feel special right from the start. We handed in our tickets to be checked outside and the doorman got on his walkie talkie to get someone to escort us up to the Ambassador Lounge. Jessie was looking after us and she was great. From sorting out alternative food for the vegan in our group to chatting and laughing about the show, she was friendly from start to finish and definitely made us feel like real VIPs.
The package includes a free show programme for everyone, as well as snacks and a welcome drink. Naturally we opted for champagne. At the interval you can come back to the lounge for any extra drinks you’ve ordered and free ice cream. I chose salted caramel and it was delicious. There are also private toilets, which is perfect for when you don’t want to join the horrendous queues in the auditorium. When walking up to the toilets, you pass a key card door that says ‘Disney Theatrical Group’ on it. It’s pretty cool to be allowed into some of the spaces where only the cast and crew can usually see.
The VIP experience is about £30 on top of your regular ticket. Would I pay it normally? Definitely not – a girl’s got to eat! But for a special occasion it’s definitely worth the splurge, especially if you’d probably get a drink or two, snacks and a programme anyway.
The musical itself
The music and singing is by far my favourite part of this musical. If you love the soundtrack and songs in the movie, then you’re sure to love the show in the same way. I really liked that they took some of my favourite tracks from the soundtrack and gave them a bigger part in the musical, like the track where Simba is running back to the Pridelands.
The new song ‘He Lives in You’ is so powerful. It’s performed at least three times throughout the show, culminating in one explosive and colourful rendition with the entire cast – which has to be one of the biggest ensembles in the West End – all harmonising perfectly. If you’re going to cry during the show, then this is it.
The staging is so beautiful and inventive throughout. It’s hard to imagine how they can recreate a stampede live on stage, or portray the vastness of Pride Rock, but they manage that and more. It’s easy to tell that this show has been in the same theatre since 1999 because every single movement is timed and executed to perfection. The costumes are stunning too, really adding to the personality of every character. I can’t begin to imagine how big their costume department must be.
Overall, while I did love it, the show didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I think I probably hoped for too much after waiting to see it for practically my whole life. When anyone takes something you love so much, like the Lion King film, it’s going to be almost impossible to make something even better. It’s worth remembering that if you hope to see it soon.
Where should you sit?
The Lyceum theatre is huge. For a bit of perspective, the largest West End theatre is Wicked’s home, the Apollo Victoria, with 2,384 seats, and the Lyceum has 2,100. This is great as it means there is a wide selection of tickets for every performance, but it also means that seats close to the action cost a lot of money. The Lion King is one of the most expensive shows in London, with the best tickets costing well over £120. Sadly, this is one show where they might actually be worth the price.
We sat on the sixth row of the Circle (middle level of the theatre) and it felt like we were quite far from the action and the sound was quite quiet at times, which really lessened the impact for me. These tickets were worth £70 each, so even that was a splurge.
I really recommend saving for this musical and spending more to sit in the stalls. The lack of speakers will mean that the sound is a lot better down there, and performers regularly run through the aisles so the atmosphere must be great. I nearly always suggest getting the £20 theatre tickets wherever possible, but sadly Lion King is so popular that you really do pay for what you get.
Have you see the Lion King performed anywhere around the world? What did you think? Or do you hope to go soon?