City Mouse Roars–at the Lion King on its last performance at the Fox Theater in St. Louis
Country Mouse....then city mouse. As city mouse I'm experiencing wonders such as the Butterfly House, Japanese films and gallery talks on Romare Beardon's "Show Time" at the St. Louis Art Museum, a Black Artists Exhibition at the Urban League Convention held at the America Center...all in St. Louis, of course.
Cousin Cynthia and I compared notes and discovered we've both long wanted to go see "The Lion King," and so we carefully coordinated her schedule as 911 dispatcher for the Alton, Illinois police department with its ending performance and got our wish.
We sat in rear orchestra seats and I hardly think I caught my breath throughout the entire three hours we were there (from 1-4 p.m.).
First, you have to understand about the oppulence of the Fox itself. Here's how the Wikipedia describes it:
The Fox Theatre is one of the most famous theatres in St. Louis, Missouri. "The Fabulous Fox" or "The Fox", as locals call it, is located in the arts district of the Grand Center area in Midtown St. Louis, one block north of Saint Louis University. It was designed in the 1920s by an architect specializing in theaters, C. Howard Crane in a style known as Siamese Byzantine. Originally opened in 1929 by William Fox as a movie palace for silent films, the Fox has survived through the years, and is now a versatile theater. The Fox Theatre closed in March of 1978 and was purchased by Fox Associates in 1981. The theater was restored at a price of at least three million dollars and in comparison, the Fox cost six million dollars to build in 1929. The Fox reopened in September 1982 with the musical "Barnum". The Fox currently seats 4,278 theatergoers plus 234 in the private Fox Club.
Then, "The Lion King" is a visual feast and sensual delight...mime, dance, puppets, song, acting, percussion on either side of the stage, full orchestra in the pit...choreography, sets, props, costumes, constructions, lighting design...everything coming together in a grand pop operatic balance.
Because I've been a puppeteer (in Botswana I was the puppetry consultant for the Popular Theater campaign) and designed kinetic props for dances I collaborated in choreographing and performing (as guest artist with Augustino Dance Theater in 1997) I was particularly interested in the constructions and how they were animated by the skilled troupe.
I was reminded of Bunraku and Noh drama...also, a dancer I saw perform in the Bay Area who was influenced by Indonesian and Balinese sacred temple dance tradition: Sha-Sha Higby. She disappeared inside costumes she made composed of a thousand separate pieces that tingled and twirled as she moved with exquisite control in the intimate gallery environment.
Everything in "The Lion King" stage show is so seamless, you just don't know where to look. In a show this complex lighting and sound cues take over half dozen computers to track and execute...yet, they still get so much milage out of simple effects like a rippling river of material. This is theater-craft at its finest. Cousin Cynthia, myself, and the entire audience of both adults and children were completely mesmerized.
One of the most fun things was hanging out in the theater afterwards as the roadies began to lay out the puppets on the orchestra seats preparatory to packing as they moved on to their next gig. They estimated it would take 10 hours (from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. when they'd depart) to complete their work.
Time for the city mouse to go find a bit of cheese and crawl back in its nest now. I'm sure glad I'm not on tour.
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