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Circle of Song 

by Michael Bowen & r & The score for The Lion King begins with the five Elton John and Tim Rice songs from the animated movie that director Julie Taymor chose to include in the stage version, four of them in the first act. First, "Circle of Life" "moves us all / Through despair and hope / Through faith and love / Till we find our place."


Rafiki's accompanying chant ("Nants ingonyama bagithi, Baba") was written by the Oscar-winning composer of the Lion King movie score, Hans Zimmer, and a composer from Soweto, Lebo M, who was more instrumental than anyone in bringing African chant and melodies into the show. Rafiki sings a welcome to Simba: "Here comes a lion, Father / Oh yes, it's a lion / We're going to conquer / A lion and a leopard come to this open place."


John and Rice also wrote Simba's ode to impatience, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King"; "Be Prepared" (which, along with its reprise, represents Scar's ascent and triumph); the don't-worry-be-happy irresponsibility of "Hakuna Matata," sung by the trio of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa; and the Simba-Nala love duet, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."


John and Rice also contributed three new songs to the stage version: "The Morning Report" (Zazu, the hornbill who runs Mufasa's household, delivers a comic report about the state of the Pridelands); "Chow Down" (a rock anthem showing the voraciousness of the three hyenas, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed); and "The Madness of King Scar" (in which he loses the hyenas, is insulted by Zazu and Nala, and gets a little schizophrenic: "I'm revered, I am reviled, I'm idolized, I am despised").


Working with various collaborators, Lebo M has a hand in all of the score's half-dozen remaining songs. "They Live in You" (Mufasa's hymn to his ancestors, sung for Simba's instruction) and its reprise as "He Lives in You" (sung by Rafiki and Simba in memory of Mufasa) originated on Return to the Pridelands, the movie's follow-up album. "One by One," the joyous Zulu chant at the top of Act Two, expresses the anti-apartheid passion of the man from Soweto: "They wanted to hold us back / They will not succeed ... The color of my skin / That is dark / I am proud of it ... I will die for it." Nala sings a hymn to loyalty ("always remember your pride") in "Shadowland." In "Endless Night," Simba turns from despair ("You promised you'd be there ... you're not anywhere") to hopefulness.


Ultimately the finale, "King of Pride Rock" ("Rule, Simba / Rule with love"), circles the show back to where it began, helping us "find our place / On the path unwinding."

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