Chaos Attraction

Lion King Musical

2012-12-20, 9:35 p.m.

So, Wednesday was the first of many trips to San Francisco this holiday season-- I seem to be going there every few days or so, and that's just the ones that are set in stone already. I'm sure more are to come. I was kind of cranky about it because Mom wanted to take BART in and I was not terribly comfortable about coming home late on it (especially after hearing a friend of hers saying it kind of weirded him out when he did that). I kept trying to talk her out of it, but nooooooo.

Honestly, I don't really like San Francisco overall. There is some cool stuff there, don't get me wrong, and it's nice that it's a haven for weirdos. However, I mostly just feel on edge there on the streets, plus I'm usually cold and getting a headache from the pea soup cloudy sky. The place is not my jam, okay? But...with one exception, this was a not-too-wiggy day in SF for me. It was sunny, we didn't leave until after 3 and it was much less crowded/had less crazies than usual on BART (I am amazed my mother found parking there on a weekday afternoon). And that applied for going home, too. No crazies! I also just generally didn't have as much of a "omg crazy people everywhere" feeling going on that day. We did the traditional wandering around Union Square thing and looked at the store windows and the kittens and the Westin St. Francis castle, had clam chowder, the usual.

It really only got crazy between walking from the Powell station to the Civic Center area. It had wanted to take BART from here to there even though it was one stop--stupid, I know-- but Mom was all, "Let's walk!" But...within half a block of walking away from Powell/Market, the neighborhood seemed to turn instantly bad. Bars on windows, everything closed, cops standing around, nobody but crazy yelling homeless guys on the street. Why does that happen in cities? Within a few blocks of a "good" (or less trouble, anyway) area, it's suddenly crime ridden? There's no progression? I don't get it. I am such a suburbanite it's not even funny. But we met a guy who was with his little girl and also trying to find the Orpheum, so we walked in with him. Thank goodness.

So.... we went to see The Lion King tonight.

Now, I'd pretty much been oblivious to this whole thing before. I hadn't really seen the commercials until a few days ago (normally commercials = bathroom or snack time when I'm home alone). For a few months, Mom has gone on about wanting to see this and I have been all, "whenever, just let me know when" and not really paid attention beyond that (though uh, being given a heads-up as to when she was going to buy them WOULDA BEEN NICE). I pretty much assumed it'd be like the Disney shows I've seen of Lion King at the theme parks. Last week I told a coworker where we were going and she was extremely jealous. I kinda felt bad at that moment that I wasn't more psyched about it as yet.

But... hoo boy, is it good. They have performers going down the bottom floor aisles, including a rhino, an elephant, and a cute wittle baby elephant, hyenas who fake pee on audience members, etc. There are even folks in both balconies so everyone got to see someone on their level. And OH MY GOD, THE COSTUMES AND PUPPETRY are AMAZING.
* They have an entire bike rigged up to have jumping gazelles. They have gazelle people with statues jumping in the air.
* There is a cheetah attached to a woman who is really, really good at moving like a cheetah. The giraffes were walking on 4 stilts.
* Rafiki (the crazy baboon shaman) is played by a woman. Very amusingly so. She's 95% incomprehensible.
* I like how the lion and lioness heads on adult Simba and the ladies look. * The lioness masks cry streamers of tears at one point. But I especially liked the mobile lion heads that kind of hung over Mufasa and Scar. They could somehow swing them about so that they would look like actual cats growling at each other.
* Pumbaa and the zebras--their human bodies were the front legs and they had heads attached on the front that they puppeted, and hanging off legs on the back.
* Zazu and Timon were more puppeteered. Zazu-human wore a blue costume and operated the bird as a puppet (most of the time). Timon-human wore green and had the character attached to him at this feet. He used his arms to move the head and one arm.
* There were at least 3 versions of hyena: a simple costume for the dancers. For big crowd scenes, the other hyenas had heads strapped to their fronts and their arms and legs operated the limbs. The three stooge hyenas used one arm to move the heads and one to move the front legs, which were strapped together.
* There were, no joke, people dressed as plants and GRASS at times. The grass was to move little puppet versions of Simba and Mufasa around. They did that periodically--had little animal puppets subbing in for humans.
* The wildebeest stampede was staged incredibly well--one scrim of stampeding beasts at the back (it was a layered stage), the next layer were cycling puppets, the third and fourth layers on the front of the stage were humans carrying two wildebeest heads apiece. Mufasa climbs the wall, Scar shoves him off and they used wires. Even I choked up watching it.
* There is a fair chunk of new music added in-- more tribal sounding. The only new song that I was really into though was "He Lives In Me" for the scene where Simba sees his dad's ghost. That scene was REALLY done well. They had people come out with reversible pieces on sticks that looked like odd clouds. Then they all got into position and flipped them around and made Mufasa's giant floating head. Awesome!
* As a new song, "Chow Down," which the hyenas sing to taunt the kids....well, I just thought, "Geez, get on with it."
* Two weird bits of staging:
(a) "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," as done in the movie, would be tough/impossible to follow. Well, they tried. They have the kids playing on....made up circus animals? They're riding around on giant birds (Nala in particular seems to be enjoying that) and there's random giraffes and other animals that don't match the usual style. Also, at one point actor-Zazu flat out loses his bird puppet entirely and then wanders the stage alone. It was odd and weird.
(b) At one point (past the Mufasa-giant-head scene) humans are on stage in colorful clothes with no animal anything going on. (Also during the ghost scene, human heads are lit up on stage.) When they did this, I thought, "When did humans show up in this?"
* New plot elements from the movie:
(a) Simba starts Act 2 feeling angsty about how the oasis he's in doesn't feel right. Timon has a near-death experience by failing to leap a river, which gives Simba flashbacks.
(b) Scar figures he should get a wife and propositions Nala. It doesn't go well.
(c) Pumbaa uses his powers of farting (boy, are there a lotta fart jokes) in battle. No joke!
* The baby Simba puppet at the start and finish was sooooo cute, turning its head and wiggling its little feet. It was just adorable. I don't know why the toys they had for sale weren't as cute as that.
* The guy playing adult Simba was very cute.
* Mufasa was cast perfectly.
* Scar is also quite amazing.

It was excellent.

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