Interview With J. Anthony Crane

There’s something to be said about a show that has the ability to garner applause and evoke an audience’s emotions, all within the first two minutes of the performance.

When Disney’s “The Lion King” returned to the Orpheum stage Friday night — for a fourth time since the show’s world premiere in 1997 — it did just that.

The opening scene of this award-winning musical really isn’t something you can put into words. The show’s signature song, “Circle of Life” literally comes to life in a way that’s truly mind blowing and absolutely breathtaking.

Actors transform into animals of the wild kingdom, moving with the same grace and dignified posture of these magnificent beasts. And when the scene-stealing (and over-the-top) elephant made its way down the Orpheum aisle, it was a moment unlike any other. Applause erupted in the theatre and emotions were running high — all before one word of dialogue could be uttered.

The magic of “The Lion King” is just that — it has the ability to grab hold of an audience’s full attention and every emotion while telling a familiar tale that never grows old.

From beginning to end, this musical journey is something to behold. Having more than 15 years of experience under its belt has made the show absolutely seamless, flowing effortlessly from one scene to the next.

I’ve been told “The Lion King” is one of the few shows that has audiences coming back for seconds (and sometimes thirds) during its local run — and now I know why.

11 01 j anthony crane dionne randolph Curiocity: Lion Kings Roaring Return To Mpls.

(credit: Joan Marcus)

Between the actor in costume, the performer inside the puppetry and the ever-changing African backdrop, there’s more than enough to watch (and discover) in this production.

The story stays true to the classic 1994 cartoon but gives plenty more, including original songs, new scenes and an added art form.

The cast gives a great tribute to the characters we all know and adore while elevating them to a Broadway standard. Simba (Jelani Remy) and Nala (Syndee Winters) were delightful, incredibly talented and so much fun to watch. Mark David Kaplan’s Zazu provided much of the humor – and a few local jokes.

Plus it was highly enjoyable to watch two Minnesota natives Nick Cordileone as “Timon” and J. Anthony Crane as the show’s villain, “Scar,” rule the Minneapolis stage.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of this show is the simplicity in its delivery and its ability to serve up something for everyone (Ladies, two words: hyena dancers).

Whether you’ve only watched the movie, have already seen the musical or you’ve never seen either, this show is a guaranteed good time — one that clearly only gets better with time.

Disney’s The Lion King runs through Feb. 12 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets range from $34 to $97 and are available at the Hennepin Theatre Trust website. The show is two hours and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

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