A little more ‘roar’, please?  - The New Indian Express

A little more ‘roar’, please? 

Published: 13th November 2012 12:08 PM

Last Updated: 13th November 2012 12:08 PM

The people of Chennai haven’t had the liberty of watching too many good musicals. There is no denying that the Broadway bug hasn’t caught up here in a way one would have expected it to, with the theatre scene in the city having flourished in the past few years. So when the city-based Hot Show Dance Company brought popular Disney film Lion King to stage as a musical over the weekend, the audience had nothing but the animated version, as opposed to a previously-staged musical version, to draw comparisons and make conclusions.

When the over two-hour-long musical did begin, it immediately seemed like the audience was going to be taken on a fun ride through Pride Rock, the lands ruled by lion cub Simba’s father. But as the show progressed, even within the first 10 minutes, it was evident that it may not be what one thought it would.

One reason why the musical might have worked at some level despite the fact that most of the dialogue was barely audible, could be because what it really was, was a visual treat. Apart from director Jeffery Vardon’s impeccably refreshing choreography, the costumes and masks took the show to another level. Add in the animated backdrop and Timothy Madhukar’s experimental music, it was Disney magic all the way.

There might have been a number of lags, technical glitches and much chaos on stage, not to forget that the names of the characters were all changed, but at the same time, there was also some great acting, singing and dancing.

Judah Oommen as little Simba is not the kind of kid who makes you want to run up on stage and pinch his cheeks, but with a strong singing voice and infectious enthusiasm, he made quite a mark.

Agneeshwar Thevar who played adult Simba wasn’t the majestic protagonist that is expected of Simba. He easily got lost amid the impressive props and other actors and in retrospect, didn’t have too many shining moments on stage. Why his ability to dance wasn’t put to better use is something Vardon will hopefully have an explanation for. And Vardon might have taken missteps with a few casting decisions, but at the same time, he did manage to make other brilliant choices.

Mark Thomas as the sleazy uncle and Mridhula Sekhar as Rafiki the baboon, are reasons enough to watch the show. With brilliant acting, singing and stage presence, these two, apart from Nitin Solomon’s (Zazu the hornbill) quirky antics, were the saving grace. Kapleshwar Achutan (Timon) and Christopher Stanley (Pumba) also did justice to their roles.

The production did run for three full houses on a weekend ahead of an important festival and that definitely counts for something. Just a bit more of a passionate roar, perhaps, might have taken it all the way.

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