Having entered its 15th year in London's West End, it could be argued that a tour is long overdue - but thanks to Julie Taymor's direction, and the lavish puppetry and colourful costuming, the show's extended run until January 18 next year is not going to run out of bite.
The powerful vocals of Rafiki (a playful performance by Gugwana Dlamini) opened the show, set in the majestic Serengeti Plains. Staying faithful, in the main, to the 1994 animated film, there were also some nods to its new Scottish home, such as Zazu's Miss Jean Brodie accent, thanks to Meilyr Sion's witty interpretation.
A struggle between good and evil is at the heart of this show, and parallels have often been made to biblical stories and Shakespearean tragedies: brothers powerful Mufasa (Cleveland Cathnott) and scheming Scar (Stephen Carlile) are pivotal for the first half, with definite nods to the traditions of pantomime, especially when Scar takes his final bow.
Comedy characters Timon and Pumbaa (John Hasler and Lee Ormsby) introduce the concept of Hakuna Matata just before the interval (lightening the mood for the kids) and the show's own Circle of Life is completed when the young characters (Jude Blake as Simba and Jessica Kesse as Nala) 'grow up' and are portrayed by Nicholas Nkuna and Ava Brennan respectively. Nkuna brings a subtlety and softness to Simba while Brennan's cat-like physicality and lower vocal range simply purr. Shadowland and He Lives in You were highlights, while Elton John's Can You Feel The Love Tonight was magical.
Musical direction by Jon Ranger was complemented by the surround sound from percussionists Will Fry and Adam Kovacs who were situated in the grand boxes of the Playhouse and provided the vibrant African rhythms. The use of the whole venue's space was a key innovation that greatly contributes to the audience being part of a wonderful theatrical experience.