"The Lion King Live In Concert" roars to life with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) for a three-day film musical extravaganza at The Sun Arena at Time Square Casino, Pretoria, this festive season.
First of its kind in Africa, the audience will witness the orchestral performance of the entire score synced to the movie on the big screen in what is described as an adventurous, mind-blowing, wild experience.
Just a few days before the premiere of the long-awaited Disney’s "The Lion King live In Concert" we caught up with the Naledi Award-winning musical director, arranger and conductor Eddie Clayton, who will lead the JPO with the seamless synchronisation throughout this unprecedented screening – a concept that guarantees a magical audio-visual experience for the whole family.
Reflecting on the show, Clayton says: “I have always loved The Lion King from the first moment I saw the original movie and when I took my family to the new 2019 version I was captivated all over again.
“Needless to say when I got the call to conduct Disney’s "The Lion King Live In Concert", I couldn’t believe my ears. I feel honoured to be part of this phenomenal production.”
Clayton also painted a picture of what would take place when the Hollywood blockbuster meets the South African orchestra on stage for the very first time.
“What they are going to do is project the movie, the live animation on to a massive screen at the Sun Arena and they’re going to have a live orchestra playing the soundtrack live as the audience watch the movie. So all the dialogue remains on the movie as it would in the original (film), but all the music will be played live by the orchestra.
Expanding on his role in the show, Clayton says: “My great job on the show is to first of all sync the music to the visuals to the actual movie and then bring the orchestra in to show them when they need to play. They literally follow my direction because they don’t have any kind of reference to the visuals.
“They’re going to be looking towards the front, so they rely almost exclusively on me to give them cues.”
While Clayton is no stranger to the world of the orchestra, with a musical career spanning over more than two decades, he says the experience is unique for him as well but he’s ready for the challenge.
He quips: “The whole concept of watching the movie with a live 84-piece symphony orchestra is simply a dream come true and to be conducting Hans Zimmer’s score is both an honour and privilege.
"I work a lot with the Johannesburg orchestra and it’s wonderful for me to be working with them in this in this unique set-up, which is something completely different. “I’m used to working with them with ballets and operas. This is now something completely new for the orchestra and for myself. And we are all so incredibly excited.”
On what the audience can expect from the show, Clayton says: “They must bring their tissues because I think it’s going to be exceptionally emotional.
“When you listen to an orchestra on the radio or on a CD it’s always lovely to hear but physically seeing the orchestra in action is incredible.
"What’s very unique about this show is the orchestra is not sitting in the orchestra pit, they’ll be sitting just beneath the screen, they will be fully visible.
"The audience will physically see the orchestra playing. Audience members will be slightly torn between watching the film and watching the orchestra in full swing,” reveals Clayton.
He conducted major orchestras and opera shows throughout South Africa, including The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, The Johannesburg Music Initiative Orchestra, the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Free State Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of South Africa as and the Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra.
He also conducted the "Nutcracker Ballet" with the JPO, and with the Joburg Ballet company, "The Sound of Music", "My Fair Lady", "Shaka Zulu" and "Classics is Groot".
“I’ve been making music since I was four years old. I started on the piano. And I would play most of the instruments in the orchestra. I’m sort of a multi-instrumentalist. I just always loved music, and in particular orchestral music. So when I was 10 years old, I joined the Wits Orchestra as the principal trombone player for four years.”
Clayton recently conducted shows with Just Jinjer, Prime Circle and Tailor.
"The Lion King Live in Concert" will be staged at The Sun Arena at Time Square Casino in Pretoria from Tuesday, December 10 until Thursday, December 12.