The lion king captured the imagination in saint louis

Mukelisiwe Goba as
“Rafiki” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

–By Jen Cunningham

It’s 730pm, the parades of parents taking selfies with their kids had dwindled down to a trickle. The eyes curiously trying to figure out who this woman is at Broadway show with a briefcase and a notebook. I love these nights. I can collect my thoughts and put them all in one basket. After all is there a Broadway Series show I haven’t seen, or at best read the book? This was a typical night at work…or was it?
A single spot hit stage right, and my jaw hit the floor… me introduce you to a woman named, Mukelisiwe Goba, she plays the part of Rafiki. (The understudy for Rafiki.) “Nants’ Ingonyama” is used in the beginning of the opening number and also serves as the intro to Elton John’s “Circle of Life”:
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba (there comes a lion)
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama (oh yes, it’s a lion).
ants ingonyama bagithi baba (there comes a lion)
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama (oh yes, it’s a lion)
Ingonyama
Siyo nqoba (we’re going to conquer)
Ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabaal (it’s a lion and a tiger)
This intro begins a Capella and on a belt. She had my full attention. She sang this with so much depth, it was very organic. I was not at all surprised to learn she was born in Durban, South Africa, as this this African chant is in Zulu, the language spoken by 95% of South Africa.

Mukelisiwe Goba as
“Rafiki” in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

It only continued to surprise me. Actors come running down the isles, chanting and waving flags, and the puppets…the artistic expression the puppets was mind blowing!!
The colors, costumes, makeup, and puppets were exactly what we’ve learned to love and expect from Disney productions.
What surprised me yet again, was a standby! Tony Freeman had everyone doubled over laughing with his portrayal of Zazu, the dodo bird, assistant the King. (So many jokes I could make here, but I will refrain.) Tony Freeman was awesome! Not only was he a puppeteer, he also gave a very animated performance on his own. I also noticed he was a standby for four other roles, FOUR!

Aaron Nelson as “Simba” and the ensemble in THE LION KING North American Tour. ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

One of these days, I’m going to write a piece on the amazing actors that somehow fly under the radar. The members of the ensemble, that know their specific role, and two to three others. The backbone of every amazing production can be found in the ensemble. This production is no exception.
This production is VERY family friendly. Children are actually featured in this production. In true Disney fashion, the bright colors and pastiche numbers, captured all theatre goers.
I give this 3 stars.
Grab the family and head to The Fabulous Fox Threatre. Performances of Disney’s The Lion King runs now through May 7 and is celebrating it’s 15th anniversary tonight. Tickets start at $55 dollars and on sale online at MetroTix.com.

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