The last time that The Lion King was at the Kennedy Center, in 2008, this break-though, industry-altering musical was just over a decade old. Its director, Julie Taymor, seemed to have the world at her feet: as the Washington Post noted that year, her new Spider-Man musical was "targeted for sometime in 2009 and already much-anticipated." After some disastrous stunt-related accidents, though, the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have insisted on an "artistic divorce" from Taymor, hoping to turn her Broadway musical into a Las Vegas-style special-effects extravaganza, with an eye towards possibly recovering their massive investment eventually.
Somewhere in there is a metaphor for the decline of the American musical, but another touring production of The Lion King is at the Kennedy Center Opera House, having opened last month and, judging by the crowded house last night, showing no signs of slowing down. It is a handsome and colorful show, but not surprisingly it has all the drama and appeal of a Disney movie intended for younger children. Miss Ionarts spent the evening teetering between alarm (at the "scary puppets" moving through the aisles) and delight. Adults all around me appeared just as enthralled, but for anyone who likes their entertainment a little more sophisticated, be prepared for a long night in the theater.
Jessica Goldstein, ‘The Lion King,’ views from inside the touring production at the Kennedy Center (Washington Post, July 12, 2014)
Nelson Pressley, ‘The Lion King,’ exuberant as ever, takes pride of place at the Kennedy Center (Washington Post, June 22, 2014)
---, A Roaring Success and Its Effects on Broadway (Washington Post, June 27, 2008)
This production continues through August 17 in the Kennedy Center Opera House.