For our anniversary outing this year, Husband and I went to see The (fabulous) Lion King at the Crown Theatre (formerly and forever Burswood). To add as many breaks to the experience as possible we also stayed overnight at the Crown Promenade hotel, right next door to the theatre and over the driveway from the casino. I'm not up for a properly and coherently decent post about the experience, but I thought I'd dump some thoughts here.
Firstly, this is what I tossed out on to Facebook:
We (Husband and I) forked out for front row tickets because we both have an interest in the practicalities of theatre production and wanted to get a close look at the puppets in particular. But the puppets, cast, costumes, scenery, props and makeup were all magnificently intertwined. And the staging and sets and lighting and sound were all magnificent. Performances weren't bad either, bordering on excellent. I loved that I got to see the costumes at such close range, and they were beautiful and amazing and sturdy and full of engineering goodness. I loved that I literally got the odd glimpse of the man behind the curtain when I caught some of the action in the wings. The puppets were less complex than I'd vaguely thought (my comparison was War Horse) but that was no disappointment at all, rather it increased my respect for the performers. Loved all the wonderful dancing, body language, shapes, and gestures that made up such a large part of the performance. Didn't detect a single bad note in the music or singing. Diction was perfect (for the bits in English at least) - I didn't feel like I was missing any words. Probably helped by the fact that I could lip read, so yay good seats. Good seats also allowed legs at full stretch with feet touching the side of the stage for a bit of support. Not quite feet up, but definitely a degree easier than fully seated. Minor niggles only mostly re unrealistic animal behaviour and perky over-talented child performer (not their fault). May have startled the musicians by shouting "Thank you musicians!" into the orchestra pit/cage as we left, but got back a muffled thank you in return from the darkness. I liked it.
It won't get much more coherent than that, but I shall push on for posterity.
Next I wanted to talk about how it stimulated my brain. It was a massive and complex production and the little bit of me that is forever a project manager had fun breaking it down into manageable bits. Much of it came down to sectional rehearsals, where little ensembles within the larger action could practice on their own, or even be replaced as a unit by local performers. The interactions between these subgroups were largely seamless, but there was the odd spot where the joins showed, and the fault was always with the person playing the smaller role. But the integration was incredible. There were spots in the show that were clearly designed to give everyone a breather and/or time for costume changes. I could only imagine the lists and call sheets and strictly managed chaos happening backstage to get everything out and together in real time. Real time! I love thinking about how movie productions go together, but live theatre at this level of complexity and quality is astounding to me.
Whenever I watch a singer, I always study their throat muscles to see if they're actually singing or miming. There were one or two points where it's possible that a really complex lead solo vocal might have been pre-recorded, but that made sense to preserve her voice over however many shows per week, mostly 2 per day. We even heard the odd voice directly, rather than through the speakers.
I've previously waxed lyrical about the feature costumes/puppets, but on the flip side there was an understandable economy in the non-hero costumes for the ensemble cast. But it was done so well it just felt like natural perspective – details fading into the distance. Speaking of which, all sorts of wonderfully practical tricks of perspective were used for the stampede scene. (Practical meaning non-digital/physical/analogue effects.)
Adult Simba had really really nice muscles. Purrrrrr. Adult Narla (lioness love interest) was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.
None of this analysis detracted from my enjoyment of the show. It's possible I missed out on some of the intended illusions, but I really enjoyed seeing the workings from up close, so I reckon I got the better part of the deal. We were only a few metres from the musical director and I had fun watching him too.
A note now about social anxiety. I went out there wearing a one-of-a-kind spectacular gown with serious bling, green hair, and a walking stick. And I'm not a small person. In theory the gown is an advertisement for Pretty Rock Designs, but I must be the worst model in the universe. I wanted to hide. I couldn't bear the idea of standing still for a photograph, particularly not without the help of someone who knows how to twitch a sleeve or get me to suck in my gut for the best view. This turned into something approaching blind panic as the pain and exhaustion settled in.
At interval I stood up, turned around, and calmly and without any effort cast my eye over the audience from the edge of the stage. I could tell at least a few people noticed me (and a small girl nearby said she loved my dress – yay!) but this didn't bother me in slightest. Somewhere deep inside (maybe nestled closely with the project manager I used to be) lurked the performer I used to be. Also I think there's a comfort in the definition of roles – milling about in a crowd it's not clear that I should get any sort of attention and that uncertainty gets to me. Facing a few thousand seats and faces it seems to make more sense. Whether they looked at me or not, it was ok.
Brains are stupid generally, but I was so pleased that this show pushed me to think so much.
Possible future topics of discussion – feature puppets; not taking someone's eye out with that thing; the psychology of carpets in a casino resort; my love for room service; traffic management by avoidance; lions don't do that (stop over-thinking about real lions).