Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Lion King in Concert – Royal Albert Hall | Review

The Lion King in Concert – Royal Albert Hall | Review

In the early 90s, Disney developed two animated features.  Pocahontas was largely considered a dead-cert for success by the company while The Lion King was considered somewhat of a lesser project. Cut to 1994 and the underdog went on to not only become that year’s highest-grossing movie but the then second-highest of all time behind Jurassic Park. It also boasted the accolade of most successful animated film and remains high on that list all these years later.

The Lion King in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall
The Lion King in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall

Three decades have gone by and The Lion King still holds a special place in many people’s hearts with new generations getting to meet and fall in love with the relatable characters of this coming-of-age drama. In celebration of its milestone anniversary, the Royal Albert Hall presents the film in concert with Chineke! Orchestra playing to picture. They are conducted by Sarah Hicks.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, The Lion King centres on Simba, a young prince banished from his pride thanks to the cunning manipulation of his evil uncle, Scar. Unbeknownst to his nephew, Scar has murdered his own brother, Simba’s father Mufasa, to take the throne. Simba eventually returns home as an adult with the help of some newfound friends to stop his tyrannical uncle and take his rightful place as king. With echoes of Hamlet, The Lion King balances Disney’s trademark humour and lightheartedness with a dark undercurrent while delivering some valuable life lessons along the way. Themes of identity, courage, grief, friendship and family allow the picture to appeal to all ages, which is evident in tonight’s audience.

The Lion King is also, of course, known for its instantly recognisable music. Tim Rice and Elton John collaborated on a number of songs including Circle of Life and Can You Feel the Love Tonight. The inimitable Hans Zimmer composed the film’s score, picking up an Oscar for his efforts.

We begin with the heartfelt Circle of Life with accompaniment from the London Community Gospel Choir, who elevate an already impassioned performance. It well and truly sets the tone for the concert, although it’s a real pity the choir could not remain beyond this opener. Pieces such as the emotive Under the Stars would no doubt have been further enhanced. That said, with an esteemed orchestra in fine form, we are instantly transported to the African Pride Lands.

I Just Can’t Wait to Be King is suitably upbeat and playful. It contrasts with the sinister Be Prepared with the orchestra evoking a dark sense of foreboding. Hicks excavates a real sense of danger out of her musicians on the high-octane Elephant’s Graveyard. I Was Just Trying to Be Brave is stirringly majestic with the music once again adding such rich texture to what we are witnessing on screen. Mufasa Dies holds personal resonance for Zimmer. As with Simba, the composer’s father died when he was young. This was one of the aspects of the story that attracted Zimmer to the project – his first animated picture – and we are gifted this poignant requiem as a result.

Stampede is again wonderfully executed and heightens one of the most dramatic scenes. Remember Who You Are is so distinctly Zimmer in sound, sweeping us into Simba’s grief-tainted world. The Rightful King pivots between an array of different moods. Performed live, it affords even more weight to the powerful sequence that unfolds before us.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight is simply serene – the music enveloping the entire auditorium for the film’s most romantic number.  A sure-fire highlight of an evening brimming with impressive moments. King of Pride Rock concludes proceedings on an inspiring, feel-good note.

The affection for The Lion King is also apparent with the roaring success of its stage musical adaptation, which is celebrating a remarkable 25 years in the West End. It’s only right, therefore, that special guests from the cast of the theatre incarnation join us for a rendition of He Lives in You complete with bird puppetry. It punctuates the evening and is very well received by the enthusiastic crowd.

The Royal Albert Hall’s Films in Concert series is always a highlight in the calendar, and this proves why. A magical and memorable experience expertly realised.

5 Star Rating

Review by Jonathan Marshall

The original animated classic roaring from the big screen, all whilst Hans Zimmer’s Oscar®-winning score is performed live to picture. Featuring Chineke! Orchestra and London Community Gospel Choir, conducted by Sarah Hicks.  Plus, special guests from the West End join us to celebrate 25 years of the stage musical.

The Lion King follows the powerful story of Simba as he journeys from a wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands with glorious colours and enchanting music.

Royal Albert Hall presents
30th Anniversary Celebration
5 and 6 July 2024


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