The Pantages roars with “The Lion King” – reviewed

From the initial resounding and deeply primal notes of the first song, “Circle of Life,” to the final triumphant strains, this acclaimed musical resonates with joy and celebration. Disney’s The Lion King makes its spectacular return to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, and the vivid musical will play there until March 26th, 2023.

Rafiki the mandrill (an important female role) summons all the animals to Pride Rock. There, she greets King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi before presenting their newborn cub to the gathered animals. Meanwhile, Mufasa’s brother, Scar, laments his lost chance at becoming King. Back at her baobab tree, Rafiki paints an image of the cub and asks the spirits to conjure the new prince’s name: Simba.

Khalifa White as “Nala” in the North American tour of Disney’s The Lion King. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The musical’s story is an African-infused version of Hamlet; Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of betrayal. Julie Taymor’s original direction brings the story to life with gorgeous colors, marvelous puppets and a seemingly endless parade of creative and intricate costumes (designed by Taymor).

Especially thrilling are the moments when the cast march down the aisles to ascend to the stage. Actors walking on stilts portray the giraffes, and we see antelopes, a massive elephant, birds whizzing around long poles—even rhinoceros—while principal characters such as the lions Mufasa and Scar manipulate complex costumes that feature mechanical headpieces that can be raised and lowered to foster the illusion of a big cat “lunging” at one another.

Disney’s The Lion King is an experience that is not to be missed!

Program note:

On opening night the role of Young Simba was played by Jaylen Lyndon Hunter and Young Nala was played by Scarlett London Diviney. These roles are shared with Jordan Pendleton and Farrah Wilson, respectively.

Additionally, Rafiki was portrayed by Gugwana Dlamini, who will continue in this role through February 19th. Thereafter, until the end of the Pantages Theatre run on March 26th, the role of Rafiki will be played by Mukelisiwe Goba.

Production photos by Matthew Murphy.
From the press notes:

Disney’s The Lion King has a very special place in our hearts here at Broadway in Hollywood. When the Walt Disney Company was seeking a home for the Los Angeles production of The Lion King in 2000, James M. Nederlander agreed to a $10 million renovation of The Hollywood Pantages Theatre in order to house the landmark production. The theatre was restored to its original 1930’s luster – complete with hand painted gold leafing on virtually every inch of the lobby and auditorium – and technical accommodations for the grand staging of Disney’s all new production. The original L.A. Premiere production ran nearly two years on our beautiful stage.

With the space prepared, The Lion King was able to truly show what makes it so special. The music and lyrical adaptations by Elton John and Tim Rice created an incredibly lush backdrop that Choreographer Garth Fagan used to merge traditional dance styles with Broadway pedagogy. Director Julie Taymor created a now iconic artistic world inspired by traditional theatrical styles from around the globe, and brought this story to life in a way few could have even imagined possible. The Lion King swept the Tony Awards and is now celebrating 20 years of touring North America. In a word, The Lion King is a masterpiece.

Most every theatre goer has a story about the first time they saw this show. Whether it was the awe of seeing an elephant walk down the aisle, the joy of hearing the music as it swells over the Serengeti, or simply the thrill of hearing that “BOOM” of the drums at the end of the first number, we invite you to take in this performance with renewed wonder. And if this is your first time seeing the show, you are in for an absolutely unforgettable experience.

The company of the North American tour of Disney’s The Lion King. Photo by Deen van Meer.

Disney’s The Lion King musical


6233 Hollywood Blvd.,

Los Angeles, CA 90028

Performance Dates: runs through March 26th, 2023.

Performance Schedule: 

Tuesdays—Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm

Sundays at 1pm & 6.30pm

Running Time:

2 hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission

Individual Tickets: Tickets start at $61.00

Ticket prices subject to change without notice.

Parental Advisory: All patrons must have a ticket, regardless of age.

Tickets: Online: or

Phone: 1-800-982-2787

In Person: Hollywood Pantages Theatre Box Office.

Visit website for current box office hours.

About the Pantages Theatre:

In the heart of Hollywood, on Hollywood Boulevard, right down the block from Vine Street, stands the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It’s a fitting location: The Pantages has become one of the greatest landmarks of Hollywood, signifying both the glorious past and adventuresome future of the world’s entertainment capital.

The Hollywood Pantages has a history as grand and diverse as the stage and screen fare which audiences have flocked to enjoy there for half a century. These days it’s one of Los Angeles’ leading homes of legitimate theatre (the five highest-grossing weeks in L.A.’s theatrical history were all shows at the Pantages) and a favorite “location” for tv shows, movies and music videos. In the past, it has been a movie house, with live vaudeville acts between features as well as the site of many gala premieres and “spectaculars.” For ten years the Hollywood Pantages Theatre was the home of the glittering Academy Awards Presentations.

While the use of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre may have changed over the years, the theatre does not appear all that different today. After several touch-ups over the years, the Hollywood Boulevard showplace was renovated at the turn of the 21st century to recapture its 1930 look and luxury. When the theatre reopened in September 2000, some 300 people had repainted nearly every inch of the theatre, restored its outer lobby and missing chandeliers, refurbished its walls and prepared it for the new century.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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