Tag Archive: lion king las vegas

Two and a half years after “Disney’s The Lion King” roared into Las Vegas in March 2009, the herd at Pride Rock is dispersing to other grasslands. The Las Vegas run of Broadway’s sweetheart showcased dancers and vocalists with talent and ferocity, but a smooth criminal named Michael Jackson is slated to reside at Mandalay Bay, the former pride lands.

Lion Kingers have been doing more than their eight-show schedule at Mandalay, though. In the years they’ve been in Vegas, cast members have organized and participated in benefits, concerts and showcases. This community focus means that they will be missed in more places than just a resort on the Strip.

John Przybys wrote about the show closing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Check out the story here.

I wrote about “Lion King” showcases on several occasions. Click on the links below to read more.

Check out my original review of “The Lion King.” Cast members performed “The Moment” at E Strings bar on Dec. 6 of 2010. “Vegas Vaudeville”  and “Live. Love. Dance!” hit the stage at the Horn Theatre on Sept. 16 and April 22, respectively. On Sept. 11, some “Lion King” performers contributed to  “God Lives in Glass” at the Judy Bayley Theatre.

“Lion King,” in all its theatric splendor, is a production that will be sorely missed, even in an entertainment-saturated market. Whether Pride Rock residents are staying in the city or moving elsewhere, I wish them all the best. Hakuna matata!


Dancers line the stage for the "tip parade" at the end of the show. Tips are donated to BC/EFA.

Entertainers from up and down the Strip performed in the Las Vegas sequel of the hit benefit concert “Broadway Bares” on April 24 at Planet Hollywood and shed their clothes for the cause. The show generated more than $20,000 and every dime went to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that supports those living with the virus.

The show was also a smokin’ testament to the depth of talent that lies in this city. The Vegas version of the New York concept was a strong contribution to the “Broadway Bares” original and proved that the arts scene here is nothing to sneeze at. Jerry Mitchell, creator of both “Broadway Bares” and “Peepshow,” took the stage at the end of the show and heartily agreed, conveying his excitement about the growth the show has seen since its humble beginnings.

Slick, sexy vocals and understated confidence provided an auspicious start for “2 Hot” with a number of the same name featuring artists from “Peepshow,” “Jersey Boys” and others. The tension was palpable and made for an exciting beginning to a highly dynamic show.

The diversity was also impressive. There was an excellent female cover of “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon with strong lyrical choreography to match. There was a guy in a banana suit (word up to 1230 Clownshow and their usual eyebrow-raising circumstances for that one). There was a classic number by Nicholas Foote to “Too Darn Hot” that had a sassy, finely honed Broadway edge to it. “Simply Barerisistible,” by Sheila Joy Burford, had girls bent, curled and spinning on barstools with commendable ease.

Edie of "Zumanity" makes her entrance in style and emceed the show alongside "Peepshow"'s Holly Madison and Josh Strickland.

And there was a drag queen descending from the sky to the Miss America theme song. Edie, a “Zumanity” performer who was the emcee for the evening, was a perfect palate-cleanser for the smattering of genres that made an appearance. Co-hosts Holly Madison and Josh Strickland of “Peepshow” made appearances as well and the three were as enjoyable as the acts they introduced.

Novelty was in no short supply; “Le Jazz Hot,” with choreography by Rommel Pacson, was headlined by a glammed-up Christopher Peterson of “Eyecons” and guys from “Naked Boys Singing” at the Onyx Theatre. It’s hard to go wrong with a New-Orleans-jazz vibe and bare-chested men in suspenders.

“13 Going on 30” was a tongue-in-cheek parody of something akin to “Annie” and presented a cringe-worthy contrast of little-girl choreography (by Lena Groux and Jamee Hossack) and unarguably adult subject matter. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” from Dustree Productions featured a full-size bed with suggestive scenarios and spicy partnering to match.

The Viper Vixens demonstrate their power in "Looks that Kill."

Weapons made a couple of debuts as well (and I commend both choreographers for not choosing Rihanna’s “S&M” track–too easy.) The Viper Vixens performed “Looks that Kill,” with choreography by Ottavio Gesmundo, holding objects that looked ominously like ice picks. The forthright sexuality in the number would have been dangerous enough: the Vixens weren’t playin’, and they made that clear.

J.J. Villar’s “Weird Science” was, well, weird, but intriguingly so. The bizarre situations, involving the likes of bodies outlined in neon lights, duct-taped girls a la Lady Gaga and buckets and water guns created a raucous, jarring, postmodern experience. And the water guns were pretty cool.

Straight-up sexiness was well represented. “Where Have All the Nice Men Gone,” by Jonnis, erred in a captivatingly contemporary direction and the edgy “Nice N’ Slow” by Saleemah Knight featured stellar vocals by “Lion King”‘s Jelani Remy. “Hit Me with a Hot Note” by Tara Palsha and Ryan Kelsey and featuring performers from “Vegas! The Show,” was at once charming and sensual with corsets thrown in for fun.

“Bringing the Heat” shook up the Disney image and showcased the fiery choreography of Erin Barnett. The introduction of the number, performed by the cast of “Lion King Las Vegas,” brought an anticipatory roar from the audience. The sinewy movement was executed impeccably and the brevity of the number left the audience yearning for more.

This could be said for the show itself. As Edie put it, “I hate that I have to wait 364 days to be here, but I’m here!” “Broadway Bares” is rapidly becoming a Vegas tradition, and fortunately so: There are few shows that would fit in with Strip life as well as this one.

Jerry Mitchell congratulates the cast after speaking of the unassuming beginnings of "Broadway Bares."

“Broadway Bares” began in New York in 1992 and has raised $75 million since then. BC/EFA has raised $195 million to provide services for those living with HIV/AIDS.

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A pride of dancers from Disney’s “The Lion King” will be congregating at the College of Southern Nevada’s Nicholas J. Horn Theatre for a benefit concert of original choreography on April 22. Proceeds from the show will benefit CSN’s performing arts center in an effort to increase artistic diversity and accessibility in the city.

“Live. Love. Dance!” will feature choreography in styles ranging from modern to contemporary ballet to funk, Fosse, gospel and jazz, all created and performed by cast members of “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay.

“This showcase will be an opportunity for our dancers to explore new concepts and express individual ideas about art, life and love,” Celise Hicks said in a press release. Hicks is the resident choreographer for “The Lion King” Las Vegas and the representative for the dance showcase. “Innumerable emotions and stories can be told through dance,” she said. “The dancers will use music, motion and costumes to share their personal passions with the audience.”

Hicks continued that the cast and creative team is grateful to be partnering with CSN on the project. “The CSN Performing Arts Center is a beautiful facility that brings so much culture to our community, and we are very pleased to support their mission to provide artistic, cultural, educational and entertainment opportunities for the college and the community,” she said.

“Live. Love. Dance!” will be performed at 7 p.m. on April 22 at the Horn Theatre on CSN’s Cheyenne campus. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $10 for children under age 12 and for CSN students with valid identification.

For reservations and information, contact the CSN box office at (702) 651-LIVE (5483) or e-mail: pactickets@csn.edu

The cast of Disney’s “The Lion King Las Vegas” seized the moment and put on a cabaret-style show at E String Grill & Poker Bar in Henderson on Dec. 6.”The Moment,” as the show was titled, was dedicated to Brenda O’Brien, who is a makeup artist for “The Lion King Las Vegas,” or LKLV. Members of the cast and the creative team joined forces and produced the show as a way to celebrate the talent and creativity of all of those involved in LKLV, whether they are onstage each night or not.

Matthew Morgan, who plays the hyena Banzai and is a member of the ensemble, acted as the informal emcee for the night, hopping on and off the stage and teasing the audience and the performers in equal measure.

Singer-songwriter Niles Rivers (Simba and ensmble) started the performances in brilliant style with a well-strummed guitar and an open, inviting voice, heralding the sincerity of numbers to come.

Adam Kozlowski (Pumbaa), pictured left, continued the sincerity with a warm rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” coupled with a personality-steeped “I Got Rhythm” and a ukelele. The gregarious man that plays the gregarious warthog sang and scatted and demonstrated the extroverted sociability that makes the character such a hit.

Michael Hollick (Pumbaa, Scar) joined Kozlowski later in the show for cheek-to-cheek, and tongue-in-cheek, duet of “Gossamer” and “Just Arrived from Thunder Road.” The unfeigned enjoyment emanating from each was contagious and undeniable.

Robbie Swift, who plays Pumbaa’s meerkat wingman Timon in addition to Zazu, the royal attendant, followed in appropriate sidekick fashion. Contrary to the strutting, self-satisfied characters he plays, Swift presented an understated, quietly sincere set of numbers that underscored the diversity of the cast.

The first behind-the-scenes revelation came with Meredith Walker, a makeup artist from the show dressed in vibrant purple. She and Damian Baldet (Timon) sang the playful “Wet Mouth Punch,” smiling sidelong at each other through the good-natured parody. Andrew Arrington (Banzai, swing) was decked out in drag and continued the comedic kick with “Try a Little Tenderness,” an exaggerated and exuberant number that added diversity to the show.

Concertmaster and first chair violin Rebecca Ramsey, along with second cellist Moonlight Tran and upright and electric bassist Keith Nelson, serenaded the audience wonderfully while the set of the stage was changed. Seeing the performers that are normally only heard was a welcome bonus, and the music was far from commonplace.

Michael Manly, a plaid-wearing French horn player, also emerged from the orchestra pit and delivered a dry, witty monologue about Thanksgiving and “dysfunctional family relations.” His clipped voice, together with small, wire-rimmed glasses, gave the impression of a wry, witty and pleasantly sarcastic relative that would not have been out of place at a Thanksgiving table.

Corwin Hodge and Deidrea Halley, both swings in the show, showcased a ubiquitous attribute of each of the cast members: the unwavering ability to communicate with an audience. Hodge and Halley both projected a vulnerability that made way for unadulterated emotion to step forth. This, coupled with the obvious experience of the cast, was part of what made “The Moment” so appealing.

Devin Roberts continued in this vein with “Little Drummer Boy,” a song he said he has come to love because of the idea of giving the best that can be offered despite having little.

In addition to the vocals, dance made an appearance as well. Tyrell Rolle (pictured left, kneeling), Derrick Davis, Donna Vaughn, Devin Roberts and Zachary Ingram performed “Silence Moments,” choreographed by Rolle, and brought a sense of gratitude and faith to the stage.

In the second act, Saleemah Knight (pictured right, forward) choreographed “I Still Love You,” an emotional jazz funk number that leaned in an almost lyrical direction with its perceptive musicality. Both Rolle and Knight did an excellent job of using the space available to them and took advantage of the close proximity of the audience. Professionalism was evident in the committed performance of both pieces.

“Four Women” was a sensual number to Nina Simone’s song of the same name and represented a nod to another side of African culture — oppression. Knight, Halley, Vaughn and another ensemble member embodied the self-contained solemnity imbued by the lyrics of the song. The femininity and staid grace was a sobering reminder of, as the song states, “the pain inflicted again and again.”

Rivers tipped his fedora to the younger cast members, taking an opportunity to bring Aubrey Joseph and Tim Johnson Jr. to the stage. Both boys play Young Simba in the show and sang along with Rivers in an optimistic song he had written specifically for the upcoming generation.

Derrick Davis (Mufasa and ensemble) joined Rivers in his vision of the future and brought audience members to their feet with “Moving Forward.” Davis’ looming frame, full-bodied voice poured forth, bringing the energy in the house to a peak just before intermission.

The essence of LKLV was showcased by Kissy Simmons (Nala) and Noku Khuzwayo, Mdu Madela, Buti Mothamana, Buyi Zama, Sindisiwe Nxumalo, Ntsepa Pitjeng, Gugu Ngcobo and Vusi Sondiyazi. Simmons’ soaring voice, coupled with the African dress and vocals of the rest of the group, summed up “The Moment” well. The percussive bead skirts worn by the girls and the stunning harmonies reminded the audience that, as much as the cast joked with each other, show business is something that each takes very seriously.

The drawbacks of the show were very few. The more than two-hour running time was daunting, although the relaxed atmosphere mitigated this considerably. The feeling of family was undeniable and both the individuality and cohesiveness of the cast was incredible. Hopefully this will become a serial event and these talented performers will be seen somewhere besides Pride Rock.