Can You Feel The Length Tonight?
The Lion King has a shot at success here - but its running time could kill it
By STEVE FRIESS
My 9-year-old niece sat next to me at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City, utterly enthralled. Her widened eyes were glued to the visual feast before her, the mammoth puppets and the ebullient, multiethnic cast performing colorful, energetic song-and-dance numbers, the Elton John/Tim Rice score.
A few seats away from her, though, was a slightly different story. A middle-aged couple from Ohio watched at first attentively and then, as time went on, with some impatience. The woman, in fact, dug out her program and opened it to the page with the list of songs, trying to catch a little bit of light so she could figure out how many were left. I had made her acquaintance before the show started because she complimented my niece on her outfit, and so at intermission I wondered how she liked the show.
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” she said, “but maybe a little bit too long for me.”
The show, of course, was The Lion King, the production that aspires to be Las Vegas’ Next Big Thing when it arrives this spring at the Mandalay Bay. Along with the Cirque du Soleil Elvis-scored show coming to CityCenter, The Lion King is one of only two major entertainment premieres now on the 2009 calendar for the Strip. (Okay, there’s three if you’re willing to count that Scary Spice stripper show coming to the Planet Hollywood, but I’m not.)
Whenever a Broadway show is heading to Vegas, I like to get out and see it in its native habitat, New York. That way, I have a baseline to compare the quality of the performances and changes in the staging of the Vegas edition when it arrives.
And, of course, I get to begin to judge whether it’s going to succeed or fail in Las Vegas.
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