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July 31, 2014

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Make time for the King

Just don’t schedule a lot for after Disney’s new Vegas venture

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Joan Marcus

The Lion King featuring Andre Jackson.

The Lion King

Watch a preview of The Lion King, opening in May at Mandalay Bay.

It is fitting that in the opening moments of The Lion King, a giant elephant figure inhabited by cast members lumbers down an aisle toward the stage. Metaphorically, there is an elephant in this room in the form of the show’s length: two acts and an intermission, clocking in at two and a half hours—an eternity for Vegas audiences.

The Details

The Lion King
Four stars
Monday-Thursday, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday, 4 & 8 p.m.
$53-$168.50.
Mandalay Bay, 632-7580.

It is where the artistic power of Disney meets the notoriously short attention spans of Vegas audiences. Mamma Mia! ran counter to that trend, of course, in the same Mandalay Bay theater. But other Broadway-tailored productions, most notably the ill-fated Avenue Q at Wynn, were forced to pare down the running time and drop the intermission altogether. Phantom at the Venetian was built to erase that issue: It’s a rapid-moving 90-minute show that has eliminated several relatively lethargic scenes while saving all the music. Not so with The Lion King.

Click to enlarge photo

The Lion King at Mandalay Bay.

If there is a certainty in entertainment, however, it’s that Disney is nails. The Lion King’s performances are inspired. Especially convincing is Thom Sesna as Scar, infusing a heavy complement of joyous flamboyance to the scheming brother of lion king Mufasa. Young Simba alternates between kids Duane Ervin and Elijah Johnson; I’ve seen Johnson twice, and he is as dynamic as any adult onstage. Julie Taymor’s color-splashed staging and dazzling costumes, replete with exquisite masking and puppetry, are unique among Vegas productions. So is that running time.

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