What’s it like to watch Disney’s Lion King Musical in Hamburg
Chasing unconventional experiences is what I love best when travelling.
If you’ve an opportunity to do something different or unusual, you should always go for it.
The beauty of saying yes to a spontaneous and unusual experience somewhere foreign is always so much more memorable than going through a checklist of sightseeing spots. Like our attempt to catch a midnight movie in a cinema in Batam (but failed, because we fell asleep out of exhaustion in the hotel), watching the Valentine’s Day opera in Riga, and now, watching a famous Disney’s Lion King in Hamburg. In German.
Of course, this wasn’t as unplanned as the rest. The tickets to the musical was after all our wedding gift from our friends. But they must have known us well, to have gifted us with such a precious opportunity to do something completely different. I mean, they could have just bought us a kitchen appliance or simply cash, but no, these geniuses had other plans.
Getting to the theatre
The theatre loomed in front of us as the free ferry-shuttle slowed down and parked itself at the pier. Like all other musical goers, Chris and I were excited. The cold November afternoon didn’t dampen our spirits. Elsewhere, theatres are usually scattered around the city, but for the Lion King, it’s on the other side of the Elbe river. Theatre im Hafen is right by the harbour itself.
The Lion King musical, Der König Der Löwen, is Hamburg’s longest running musical. Since it’s opening in 2001, the musical has won more than 70 international awards!
Chris has never watched a musical before and I haven’t seen one in ages. Ironically, I did catch the Lion King musical in Sydney before, but it was in English and a million years ago. What would it be like to watch it in German? Would songs like Hakuna Matata and I Can’t Just Can’t Wait To King be similar to their English versions?
As we entered the warm theatre, the masses became unforgiving. People were spilling in from the entrance and into the narrow lobby, and then moved around in a million directions. The cloakroom counter was wide and spacious, but still, there were lines everywhere.
The usher pointed us to our seats and we settled in. From where we sat, the stage didn’t look too big. Flanking both sides of the hall were balconies with musical instruments, like wooden drums, a keyboard, and some other traditional African-looking instruments that I’ve no names for.
When the lights dimmed, I heard a loud yell that sent tingles down my spine.
It’s happening. It’s happening.
Performers dressed in animal costumes from the African savanna started streaming through the aisle from the back of the hall and onto the stage. Drums were beating, footsteps marching to match the beat, lights flashing, blinking and blazing. A lady shaman (technically a Baboon) was screaming her heart out while background vocals provided support. Vivid colours passed us by like a turning kaleidoscope as the Circle of Life song went on.
I got so caught up by the whole thing that I didn’t realise that a tear rolled down my cheek. I turned to Chris and in the darkness, I could see his eyes misted over. This song always had an effect on me and I’m glad it did so on Chris too. Since I was a kid, I had always thought that this is the best song that captures the essence of humanity.
Now, watching it live–with human bodies weaving, flexing, and moving their bodies to express what the animators at Disney had initially intended to capture–the intensity of the experience doubles.
Sitting there, taking everything in, became a magical experience.
What a show!
It’s amazing what creativity could do. After all, isn’t it difficult to translate what was animated, from non-human characters to geographical landscapes to portrayal by human performances on a stage? I found it incredible fascinating. With the help of amazing lighting work, stage architecture and design, supporting machinery and digital technology, and live music, art on the screen can be turned into art on stage. I mean, they staged a freaking stampede within the theatre–how cool is that?
I almost forgot that I was not watching people on a stage. Rather, I was witnessing talking lions, an audacious old bird, a wise baboon and hysterical hyenas, set in the dusty soil of the African continent and later the depths of a jungle.
The scenes unfolded exactly like in the animation, except it was better.
In a scene where Mufasa’s ghost spoke to grown-up Simba, scattered twinkling lights on the drapes came together to form the face of Mufasa. I was totally blown away. Sure, it’s technology and all that, but it’s sometimes easy to forget when you’re watching it live. It seemed all so seamless.
Watching the Lion King auf Deutsch?
By now, I’d forgotten that I was watching it in German and not in English. All the songs sounded exactly the same. Of course, a year ago, I might have struggled to understand or fall asleep due to the amount of effort used to translate the whole thing back and forth in my head.
This year, I didn’t quite realise that it was in a foreign language that I’d just learned a year ago. In fact, watching it in German was exactly how it should be. Exotic, strange sounding but surprisingly apt, given the circumstances. It’d have been more realistic if it was in an African language like Swahili, Zulu or Berber, but then, I wouldn’t have understood it at all.
I felt a tinge of regret when the show came to an end. We clapped and roared; boy, did the crowd cheered. No matter how hard I clapped, I still think the performers and all those involved in the production deserved more.
The musical tickets might have been expensive but it’s absolutely worth it. First-rate set, evocative songs, the finest performers–what more do you need? If you’re checking out Hamburg, you definitely have to fit the Lion King into your itinerary. If you’re interested, here’s the website where you can get the tickets. I believe, watching a matinee on a weekday afternoon might be actually an affordable option. Do check it out!