When the giant elephant powered by four actors lumbered up the aisle toward the stage in Civic Center Music Hall, I knew my second trip to "The Lion King” would be just as captivating as the first. The Tony Award-winning musical’s first run in Oklahoma City continues through May 24, and missing it would be an elephantine mistake. My mom, sister and I recently made a girls’ night out to attend one of the stunning performances in Oklahoma City. It was my second time to see Julie Taymor’s awe-inspiring adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated film. My mother-in-law treated my family to tickets to the national touring production when it stopped in Tulsa three years ago. My first viewing of the show always will have special significance, and not only because of the inventive stage and costume design dazzle. I was pregnant with my younger son, Gabe, at the time, and I first felt him move when Rafiki the baboon hit the first high notes of the opening song "Circle of Life.” Major moments in motherhood notwithstanding, I found "The Lion King” still satisfies with repeat viewing. The assembling of animals in the opener still evoked a childlike wonder in me the second time around. For those not familiar with Taymor’s inventive approach to the musical, it uses elaborate costumes and puppets to transform the actors into lions, hyenas and zebras. Puppeteers swing bird puppets high overhead; an actress wears a cheetah costume around her hips, her back legs serving as the cat’s hind feet; a performer with gazelle puppets lining her arms leaps gracefully across the stage. When Rafiki (Phindile Mkhize) hoists the lion cub puppet of future king Simba at the end of "Circle of Life,” it’s virtually impossible not to clap and cheer. Performers even play grass and plants in the numbers "Grasslands Chant” and the Oscar-winning "Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Seeing the actors through the costumes doesn’t diminish the enjoyment; rather, it sparks admiration for Taymor’s brave vision. The musical includes several additional songs and gives more of an African sound and look to the story, lending an authentic sense of place. As for the story, "The Lion King” centers on young lion prince Simba, who is caught up in a plot by his wicked uncle, Scar, to wrest the throne from Simba’s father, Mufasa. The story takes definite cues from "Hamlet,” and it remains one of Disney’s best animated films, especially of the pre-Pixar era. Even if you’ve already seen it, it’s worth taking another trip around the "Circle of Life” with "The Lion King.”
"The Lion King”
→When: Through May 24. →Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker. →Information: (800) 869-1451 or www.celebrityattractions.com.