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Theater Review:

"The Lion King"

Yes, it's November, and time for Al the Culture Vulture to catch up on all the stuff he missed during the baseball season.

Actually, this choice of date was deliberate; I bought these tickets back in July, knowing the baseball season would definitely be over by now.

And so, my dad, my kids and I hied on down to the Cadillac Palace Theater (and yes, I hate the corporate name too; you'd think the tickets would be a little less than $82 with the corporate sponsorship, but I guess that kind of makes you feel like you're seeing a Broadway show on Broadway, with the New York prices).

You probably already know the story of "Lion King"; who hasn't seen the film? (OK, I see a few raised hands out there.) As my dad pointed out, it's loosely based on Shakespeare's "Hamlet", where the evil uncle kills the noble king, and sends the heir to the throne away, only to see him redeem himself in the end (and get the girl, too).

The real stars of this show are the costumes, sets, staging and lighting, all directed by the amazingly talented Julie Taymor, who directed the acclaimed film "Frida" a year or so ago. If you've seen the film (and if you haven't, you should), you'll instantly recognize her wild color schemes and sets that seem to meander all over the place, but all have a purpose, and there's a particular scene involving Simba (the lion son and heir) and his father, all done with special lighting effects, which is particularly effective. The animal costumes are totally believable, without overwhelming the humans operating them (particularly fun are Timon and Puumba, the animals who befriend Simba after he's exiled by evil Uncle Scar), or being silly, like the costumes in "Cats".

Everything was done first-rate in this first touring company of "Lion King", and in fact it closes here at the end of this month. If it comes to your city, and I know it's got a worldwide tour planned (in addition to playing in London), don't miss it. There were a lot of kids in today's audience, it being a matinee, and all of them were entranced by the show -- there are plenty of fun things for them, as well as humor that's aimed at adults, and well-behaved to boot.

Which leads me to today's rant.

Seated behind us were what appeared to be civilized and well-dressed adults. But what I learned after the lights went down and the curtain went up is that they were absolute boors, talking throughout both acts. People, it's really simple: I paid $82 per ticket to hear the actors perform and sing, not listen to your inane commentary behind me. Talking in movie theaters is bad enough, but talking during a performance where the performers are live on the stage in front of you (and we were close enough that I'll bet the actors could have heard these idiots) is beyond rude.

Put a sock in it, people. If you must say something, whisper.

And I haven't even mentioned the morons who stopped in the middle of the intersection of LaSalle and Randolph to drop people off, ignoring my horn, while I was stuck in the middle of the intersection while the light changed.

[end rant]

Anyway, while those were annoyances, they certainly weren't enough to ruin a terrific afternoon at the theater. Highly recommended, especially if you have kids, though I'd think it would take a six-year-old or older to really "get" it. Younger kids might be too restless to sit through a two-hour-thirty-minute performance.

Don't miss it.

AYRating: ****