- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It doesn’t get much better than The Lion King at Baltimore’s France-Merrick Performing Arts Center. The vibrantly beautiful musical, built around a simple, earthy tale about a young lion’s coming of age, is as visually and musically dazzling as it was when it premiered in 1997. The stirring score by Elton John and Tim Rice has been “Africanized” by musician Lebo M to incorporate South African polyrhythms and distinct choral singing. And director Julie Taymor’s brilliant stage adaptation brings the entire African savannah to pulsing, heat-struck life through the use of African masks, headdresses, textiles and puppetry. The show is that rarest of beasts, a perfect musical. Through Sept. 4 at 12 North Eutaw St., Baltimore. Tickets are $26.50 to $135. 800/551-7328 or www.france-merrickpac.com.

— Jayne Blanchard

Exotic Japanese Kabuki theater actors and seductive courtesans greet visitors to the Japan Information and Culture Center’s Ukiyo-E: From the Collection of Kawasaki Isago no Sato, opening tomorrow. The Edo Period, from approximately 1603 to 1800, saw Japan beginning to mass-produce art for its rising middle classes, and colorful prints made from ukiyo-e woodblocks were the most popular. The current exhibit, part two of a 253-print display, includes prints by some of the most renowned ukiyo-e artists, such as Katsushika Hokusai, Kitagawa Utamaro, Utagawa Hiroshige and Suzuki Harunobu. Hokusai’s iconic “Thirty-six Views of Mr. Fuji: Warm Breeze, Fair Weather,” known as “the Red Fuji,” is one of the most beautiful and handsome. 1155 21 St. NW. 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through July 12. Closed July 4. Free. 202/238-6900.

— Joanna Shaw-Eagle

Two impressive documentary features, Deep Blue at the Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle and Shake Hands with the Devil, at the Landmark E Street Cinema, arrive coincidentally with the annual Silverdocs documentary festival at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre. A pictorially awesome study of oceans and sea creatures, “Deep Blue” incorporates some overflow images from the esteemed “Blue Planet” series as well as newly commissioned footage, notably a plunge deep into the Marianas Trench with Mir submersibles. “Shake Hands With the Devil” is a sobering chronicle that recounts the massacres in Rwanda in 1994 from the perspective of the Canadian general whose skeleton force of United Nations “peacekeepers” was unable to stop the calamity.

— Gary Arnold

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