FORGET wildlife documentaries on 3D TVs.

If you want to get close to the African savannah look no further than the vibrant adaptation of The Lion King at Liverpool Empire.

The opening night of the multi-award winning Disney production was spectacular.

A huge elephant and rhino brushed past the audience to make their way from the aisles to the stage.

Children gazed around in wonder as they joined gazelles, zebras and giraffes for the opening number, The Circle of Life.

Adapted from the hit 1994 animated feature, one of the highest grossing films of all time, The Lion King has since been performed for more than 65 million people in six languages.

An enchanting story that stays true to its African setting while pushing the boundaries of musical theatre, it was not hard to see why it has had such an appeal.

From the long-suffering hornbill Zazu to the powerful, noble lion Mufasa, all the actors were visible alongside their animal counterparts.

But they all carried the essence of the birds and beasts they portrayed.

The innovative puppetry was amazing too, particularly in the movements and gestures of the hyenas.

But a whole host of techniques were used to make the animal kingdom come alive including shadow puppetry and projections.

Birds were made to fly in the air like kites and gazelles hopped on a makeshift bike.

Vivid sets were transformed in the blink of an eye with the wildebeest stampede and Mufasa’s message to his son Simba in the second act among the most memorable.

Runcorn and Widnes World: Review: The Lion King, Liverpool Empire

I remember watching The Lion King at the cinema when I was 12.

Dark, dramatic but ultimately uplifting it marked a new era for Disney productions – and the story has lost none of its roar in its transition to the stage.

It is arguably more powerful thanks to its wider celebration of Africa with Lebo M’s choral music heard in six African languages.

The fantastic cast, including many accomplished young leads, ought to be proud but it was Stephen Carlile’s portrayal of the prickly, treacherous Scar which stood out for me.

Credit also goes to the drummers who worked tirelessly to give the show its rhythm.

A triumph.

  • The Lion King is at Liverpool Empire until July 5.

Visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-lion-king/liverpool-empire