Few Broadway shows can claim a two-decade run, but Disney's "The Lion King" is one of them. The show is so popular there are seven productions touring world wide. Along with New York; London; Hamburg, Germany; Tokyo; Paris; and Las Vegas, San Diegans will get to see the "The Lion King" when it returns to San Diego on Oct. 13.
The winner of six Tony Awards among many others, "The Lion King" has mesmerized theater patrons as well as a world of youngsters when an animated movie version of the story was released in 1994. There's a lot to like about this energetic show. The incredible music score by Elton John and Tim Rice from the animated film also features some new songs. The wonderful story of how lions who rule the kingdom are in danger of demise yet learn how to become part of a solution to exist in the Circle of Life is compelling.
The innovative and eye-popping costumes are ingenious. "Lion King" director Julie Taymor, the first woman in Broadway history to win the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical, can take a partial bow for this. Working with mask and puppet co-designer Michael Curry, she created hundreds of masks and puppets for the show. Taymor endeavors to inspire the audience to feel a connection between human and animal using African masks, armor and extravagant costumes that exhibit the human qualities of lions.
Timothy Carter appears as Scar in "The Lion King" and knows all about challenges with the inventive costumes.
"My appearance is divided into two segments," Carter said. "At the start of the show, I have this mechanical costume, and I'm wearing heavy battery packs on my thighs, cables that go up to my mouth piece inside a full helmet that's covered with a mask with a wig on top. I also have finger controls that run down my arms so I can control what the mask does. So I'm not only acting but must control working parts of the costume at the same time."
In the second half of the show, Carter emerges in a nonmechanical version of the same costume, except he wears a harness for an upcoming fall.
Carter was thrilled to work with Taymor, whose film and stage work spans 20 years and comprises multiple awards including an Oscar nomination for the 2002 feature film "Frida."
"I love Julie Taymor's work; she's a genius," Carter said. "The way that she completely reimagined the story and the visual elements of the story is amazing. A lot of people think because they saw the movie, they've seen the show - they're not the same. Julie created something different and better."
Carter, who has been on tour with "The Lion King" for three years, has a MFA from Brandeis University. His notable resume of stage work includes: "The Three Musketeers" and "Macbeth" with The Acting Company; "King Lear," "As You Like It" and "Julius Caesar" at Colorado Shakespeare Festival; "Richard III" and "Merry Wives of Windsor" at Nebraska Shakespeare Festival; and "Hay Fever" at Westport Country Playhouse.
Scar is a complex and sometimes dark character, who Carter says reminds him of some of the villains in Shakespeare's work.
"I love the role," he said. "In some ways, this is a switch for me, and others, it's not. The folks at Disney often call Scar their Shakespearean villain. I hear constant comments about similarities of Scar to Claudio in 'Hamlet' or Iago in 'Othello,' so it's not that far from parts I've played before. That includes Scar's relish of language and wit, which is similar to some of Shakespeare's characters."
Other cast members in the show include: Dionne Randolph as the lion king Mufasa; Phindile Mkhize as Rafiki; Tyler Murree as the meerkat Timon; Ben Lipitz as Pumbaa the warthog; Marja Harmon as the lioness Nala; Andre Jackson as Simba; and the three hyenas as played by Omari Tau, Andrea Jones and Ben Roseberry.
With its enormous sets, incredible visuals, snappy music and a story that feels like one you may have seen before but isn't, "The Lion King" promises to be a not-to-forget night at the theater.
'The Lion King'
When: Oct. 13- Nov. 8
Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, Third and B Street, downtown San Diego
Tickets: $20-$79, (619) 570-1100,
Performances: 7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Special 1 p.m. matinee Nov. 5.