I can’t understand anyone not enjoying big stage productions. I am not particularly a fan of theatre, but I love big stage productions. I loved Phantom of the Opera and I loved Lord of the Dance and I loved Mamma Mia and I loved the Lion King the other night. I can’t believe that anyone can go to these and other shows of similar size and not enjoy them.
I wonder if exposure to theatre as a child has an effect of one later in life. I was having this discussion with someone the other night because they were planning to take their kids to The Lion King. My parents always took me to see the worthwhile shows that came to the Opera House in Port Elizabeth, which was strange because we lived in Durban.
Just kidding, we lived in PE and I suspect that we just went to all the shows because not many shows end up in PE. The first one I remember was Fiddler in the Roof. It’s quite a good show, very catchy music. My parents had the movie sound track so I got to know it very well. “Matchmaker, matchmaker find me a find, catch me a catch”, for a long time that didn’t make sense to me because I thought a matchmaker was someone who made matches. Then there was “If I were a rich man, debe debe debe (how do you write these sounds?)….. if I were a wealthy man!”.
I also clearly remember going to watch some Cossack dancers who kept dropping their swords, pretty bad even by PE standards. There was the ubiquitous ‘Grease’, I think a friend of mine was in that. Max Collie the hypnotist was always a good laugh. From that early age you learn some theatre going techniques which remain useful all through life. For instance, if you want to have a drink at interval, make sure you are on your way to the bar before the curtain hits the ground. Otherwise you will stand in a queue and only take your first sip as the ‘chimes’ call you back for the second half. Then you have to down the drink, which apart from not being enjoyable, makes you look like a theatre novice. Plus it doesn’t leave you time to visit the ‘water closet’ which means you don’t get to hear the last half hour of the show because your bladder is so full it’s crushing the ‘Whispers’ you bought at interval for a mere R700. Theatre snack prices make Cinema snack prices seem like a bargain which they most certainly are not (but that’s another whole post on its own).
Anyway, back to the Lion King. Since they decided not to bring it to Cape Town (I can’t understand why), a lot of people have been going up to Joburg to see it and the reports have all been positive. So off to Joburg I went. I managed to get a ticket for the night I wanted without difficulty. I think since they extended the show for another 3 months, ticket availability has improved. The theatre was pretty full though, I didn’t spot many open seats.
The Monte Teatro is not very impressive. I guess my expectations were high as Montecasino itself is very impressive, it makes our Grand West Casino look like a practice run. I would have thought they would make the theatre equally impressive but it’s not. There’s nothing impressive about it at all. There’s nothing wrong with it, it doesn’t detract from the show, it just doesn’t add anything to the experience.
The show itself was absolutely fantastic. The costumes are examples of genius at work, they blew my mind. The sets were also really great, not Phantom of the Opera great but close. The acting was pretty good, again, not phenomenal but good enough. I enjoyed the localisation of the characters and dialogue. For instance Phumba had a heavy Afrikaans accent and the hyenas had a Coloured accent. The dialogue was also peppered with colloquialisms which were funny, I found myself laughing out loud several times. The orchestra did a great job with the music. Hidden under the stage, we often forget what an important part they play.
The show is very kid friendly, there were lots of kids in the audience and they were captivated for the whole 2 hours. But it’s by no means just for kids, it’s fantastic adult entertainment. It’s a grand show, well worth the money. Tickets range from R150 to R450. I sat near the back and didn’t have any problem with the distance from the stage, I don’t know if the costumes would look better or worse close up. Sometimes, things like that look better without seeing too much detail.