Even The Lion King seems political now

Nov 04

Even <i>The Lion King</i> seems political now

The "mane" question is this: after nearly 20 years, does Disney's The Lion King, now the highest grossing Broadway show of all time, still have any roar left? Based on the touring production that has settled into SHN's Orpheum Theatre for a two-month run through the holidays, the answer is a qualified yes.

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Oi! Dancing boy! The barnstorming brilliance of Billy Elliot

Jun 29

Oi! Dancing boy! The barnstorming brilliance of <i>Billy Elliot</i>

When Billy Elliot the Musical caused a sensation in London in 2005 and then swept the 2009 Tonys with 10 awards, you could be excused for wondering what all the fuss was about. Wasn’t this yet another in a seemingly endless and mostly unnecessary line of movie-into-musical transformations?

The answer in the case of Billy is a definite no. There has never been a musical quite like this before that blends politics and pathos, glitz and grim reality, corny schmaltz and genuine emotion. This is sophisticated stuff: an old-fashioned and new-fangled musical all jumbled up in one fascinating, enormously entertaining package. It’s a sad story with joyous highs and inspiring performances.

All that said, the musical is still not as good as the 2000 movie it’s based on (which is an absolute gem), but given that the movie’s creative team also worked on the musical indicates a pleasingly high level of integrity in the musical expansion of this story.

The touring version of Billy Elliot, the final show of the SHN season, opened Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre for a three-month run, and it’s “cush,” to use the characters’ Northern England slang.

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