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Omaha Magazine

The Majestic Return of Disney's 'The Lion King' to Omaha

Feb 26, 2024 12:34PM ● By Natalie Veloso

Photo by Matthew Murphy. Provided by Omaha Performing Arts.

Since its Broadway debut in 1998, Disney's "The Lion King" has captivated over 100 million people worldwide. Now the third longest-running Broadway show, this musical beast returns to the Orpheum Theater with its innovative puppetry, captivating choreography, and iconic musical numbers.

The show's stunning opening procession set to "Circle of Life" is an unforgettable moment as every character enters the story—many of them from the back of the audience. Tony® Award-winning director Julie Taymor and designer Michael Curry hand-sculpted every prototype mask to make each character appear both animal and human simultaneously.

The witty Zazu, portrayed by Nick LaMedica, is the last to make his entrance to celebrate Simba’s birth at Pride Rock. “It's overwhelming to be a part of something that has such a legacy around the world,” LaMedica said. “The first time I saw the Broadway show myself was in 1999, so it's been a part of my life forever.”

LaMedica's nightly 45-minute transformation into Zazu is a testament to the show's diligence, with his vibrant plumage using a one-of-a-kind “Zazu blue,” made exclusively in France for the production. “I joke that I've probably worn more makeup in a year than many people would wear in their entire lifetime,” he laughed. 

LaMedica's favorite musical number, "I Just Can't Wait to be King," adds a zany energy to the first act as Zazu bounces around the stage humorously. These physical acting demands extend to the show’s four 18-foot giraffes brought to life by actors trained in stilt-walking. At 13 feet long and 12 feet tall, the elephant puppet requires four actors to carefully walk her down the orchestra aisle.

Alongside breathtaking visuals, "The Lion King" delivers a powerful message about the importance of family, friendship, and authenticity as original songs accompany beloved classics to soundtrack Simba’s journey of self-discovery. The production integrates five Indigenous African languages throughout the show—Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho, Setswana, and Swahili. “You might not speak a word of the language being spoken on stage and still enjoy the visual spectacle, or maybe you’ve had complex experiences and understand the show in a different light—it’s so universal,” LaMedica added. 

Whether you're witnessing the spectacle for the first time or revisiting it for another show, this legendary musical leaves viewers deeply moved by its message of interconnectivity.

“Mufasa speaks to Simba about how when we pass, our bodies become the grass, and the antelopes eat the grass. It’s the circle of life,” LaMedica shared. “That's what I hope audiences take away—we're all part of this planet-wide connection, and there's a lot more that unites us than separates us.”

Earning more than 70 global theatrical awards, the stunning affair draws audiences repeatedly, with many coming back time and again. Yet, as LaMedica aptly puts it, each unique performance is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It's unmissable. It's not like anything you're going to see in another theatrical experience—emotionally, visually, musically—it hits for everybody.”

Disney’s “The Lion King'' runs Feb.29–March 24 at the Orpheum Theater. To purchase tickets, visit ticketomaha.com/Productions/the-lion-king.

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