The Fullest of Sundays

[Chris->] and [Becky->] decided this year that, for the 2006 birthday season, they would provide each of our kids with a ticket to The Lion King at the beautiful Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio. After many weeks of eager anticipation, the day of the show finally arrived on Sunday.

We started off the day at church, after which we lit off for parts south, stopping at Schlitterbahn for two hours along the way. The older kids and I had a grand time banging around the park, riding on floating crocodiles, going down torrential flumes, and crossing pools on floating lily pads while Kathy and Maggie hung around the kids’ play area, reading and splashing down smaller slides respectively.

We then hopped back into the car and, after another 45 minutes of driving, arrived at Becky & Chris’ house, still dripping schlitterwasser from our suits as [Meara->], [Dad McMains->], [Lana->], and [Mom McMains->] joined us for pizza and goodies. After gorging, we finished changing clothes, piled into cars, and headed for the Majestic, where our combined party took up an entire row. After a few minutes of impatient waiting, the lights dimmed and the show began.

The show was not at all what I’d expected. My mental image was sort of a Disney-On-Ice-Without-The-Ice thing. It turned out that the African sensibility that permeates the score of the movie had been extended to the art and costume design to great effect. The costumes didn’t try to hide the fact that there was a human being in each of them, but combined puppetry, sculpture, and dance so that the forms of the animals melded beautifully with that of the person inside. The actors handling the giraffes had stilts attached to each arm and leg; the hyenas had puppet faces in front, with the actors’ heads creating the characteristic hump in the creatures’ backs; the rhino had two actors in a skeleton that actually looked like rhino ribs; the antelope described graceful arcs, driven by a bicycle-derived contraption pushed along by another actor. In addition, there was a fair bit of shadow puppetry, which combined with the other stage goings-on made a striking and unique impression.

The music was polished and well-done. A small pit orchestra combined with percussionists sitting in the box seats to the left and right of the stage to create a lush soundscape, alternately dramatic and rollicking. [Maggie->] was on her feet dancing merrily for the duration of <cite>Hakuna Matata</cite>. I was a little surprised when the music veered off into Tango briefly, and was disappointed that one of my favorite bits from the movie had been altered (where Timon sings about how tasty Poomba is to draw the hyena’s attention), but these were minor matters. The characterizations were well-done, with the boy who played young Simba and the actor portraying Scar particularly standing out.

Thanks again to [Chris->] and [Becky->] for putting the evening together; it was a great treat for us, and will live richly in our family memory.