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Broadway’s ‘The Lion King’ once more lights up Playhouse Square

I will be perfectly honest with you. As the opening “NANTS’ INGONYAMA!” sailed across the capacity crowd in the Playhouse Square Keybank State Theatre and the animals began to parade down the side aisles I found myself tearing up. I looked over to my wife and she was doing the same.

It had after all been over twenty months since a full size traveling Broadway performance had graced the stages of Playhouse Square...and what a perfect start to the new season, the incomparable “The Lion King” with all of its splendor and bright colors.

For those who have not seen the live Broadway show “The Lion King” it is more than entertainment. It is a larger than life phenomena that incorporates wonderful choral singing with beautiful dance and an easy to follow moral story line. It is a sweeping spectacle that fills the entire stage clear up to the rafters. There is so much going on that it is difficult to decide where to look. It truly is a circle of life.

The current cast of Rafiki (Gugwana Diamini), Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey), Sarabi (Maurica Roland). Zazu (Jurgen Hooper), Scar (Spencer Plachy), Young Simba (Jaylen Lyndon Hunter or Charlie Kahler), Young Nala (Nia Mulder or Kalandra Rhodes), Shenzi (Martina Sykes), Banzai (Keith Bennett), Ed (Robbie Swift), Timon (Nick Cordileone), Pumbaa (Ben Lipitz), Simba (Darian Sanders) and Nala (Kayla Cyphers) are all veteran cast members of the show.

In a word the performance is flawless. You have an amazing eight piece orchestra with Chris Neville as Keyboard 1 and Assistant Conductor, Paul McCaffrey as Keyboard 2, Robert Tye as Guitarist, Michael Brown as Bassist, Phil Martin as Drummer, Mike Faue on Marimba, Darlene Drew on Flute, Tim Riley on French Horn with James Dodgson Conducting and Michael Keller as Music Coordinator that fills the huge expanse of the Keybank State Theatre with wall to wall sound. You also have two incredible percussionists (Stefan Monssen and Reuven Weizberg) set up across from each other in the upper balconies.

First seen on Broadway in 1997 the show has been a Cleveland favorite with five stops in the last twenty years. Set in Africa, young Simba is the precocious prince being tutored by his father, King Mufasa. With the help of his young female friend, Nala, there is no limit to the danger and mischief that they can find. Simba is being groomed to be king but the king’s bother, Scar has other plans. It all comes to a climax when a herd of wildebeest kill Mufasa and nearly kill Simba. Scar convinces Simba that he needs to banish himself from his home since the young cub was responsible for his father’s death. Simba goes into the bush but luckily he is taken under the care of an unlikely pair, Timon the sassy meerkat and Pumbaa the farting warthog who teach Simba all about Hakuna Matata or “No trouble, no worries and take it easy.” Simba takes this new lesson to heart and decides to stay with the two in order to avoid having to return home to be king.

Broadway is back in all its glory at Playhouse Square with the phenomenal “The Lion King” once more gracing the stage of the Keybank State Theatre. This is a show that dazzles with great music, dance, comedy and heart.

“The Lion King” will be on stage at the Keybank State Theatre at Playhouse Square through October 15, 2021. For information and tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.

As part of their “Healthy Together – Vaccine Program” Playhouse Square requires all audience members to be fully vaccinated (meaning that fourteen days have passed since your second vaccine shot of a CDC or WHO approved two shot vaccine or the administration of a CDC or WHO approved one shot vaccine). All audience members must show a valid ID.

Those audience members who cannot be vaccinated will be required to provide proof of a negative test result received from a completed lab-certified antigen COVID-19 test within 24 hours prior to entering the theater or a negative test result received from a completed PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the theater. The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Home Test (the version requiring a virtual appointment) is an acceptable option. Masks are required to be worn at all times in all areas of Playhouse Square for all audience members with no exceptions.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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