A preview of Harambe Nights at Disney's Animal Kingdom
I recently had the opportunity to attend a preview of the newly announced Harambe Nights event coming to Animal Kingdom on Saturdays from June 7 through August 9. This is the first ever special event and the first regularly scheduled evening entertainment at Disney's Animal Kingdom. A special ticket is required for this after-hours experience. (See below for details.)
Harambe Nights is a brand-new experience designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of "The Lion King." Harambe Village and its people are the hosts for this limited-engagement experience, which allows the popular story to be told in a new and creative way.
The evening begins when you enter the village of Harambe at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The park has already closed for the day, so it's just you and the other attendees enjoying the welcome reception.
Refreshing beers, wines and savory appetizers are served. I tasted the yummy Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze, and it had a small kick. The wines are South African, and my favorites are the Fairview Pinotage for that smokey flavor and the Spice Route Chenin Blanc with a fresh taste with fruity notes. The beer selections range from Tusker Beer to Bud Light.
Soon, guests will make their way to the brand-new Harambe Theater -- which also is home to "Festival of the Lion King" during the day -- for the nearly hour-long show titled "The Lion King Concert in the Wild."
On the way into the show, each guest will be given "Lion Chow," served in a cylinder made to look like balsa wood. This definitely is my new favorite snack! The combination of sea-salted pretzel chips, cardamom candied pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries and candied ginger is perfection. It's impossible to stop eating after just one bite.
Following the show, the real party begins as guests are escorted back into Harambe Village, which is filled with the sounds of Afro-pop music, dancers, stilt walkers, a DJ and characters!
(Our preview of the event was held indoors due to the weather.)
The heart and soul of Harmabe Nights is a new theatrical experience called "The Lion King Concert in the Wild." The show celebrates the 20th anniversary of "The Lion King" and tells the story of Simba coming of age.
Marsha Jackson-Randolph, who created "The Lion King Concert in the Wild" and is the show director, spoke passionately about the new experience.
"We are so excited to present this story in a way that has not been told before," she said.
This show pulls from some of the iconic scenes from the film in an immersive approach combining a 25-piece orchestra, the Harambe 16-member choir, eight dancers and two narrators, one of which is a celebrity. Much of the music will be familiar, but some new music was created for the show, as well. In addition, there are screens in the theater to enhance the visual contact and bring to life the characters you know and love.
Creating the new show has been an involved, collaborative effort among the various branches of The Walt Disney Co., she said. Disney brought in award-winning choreographer and director Warren Adams to help develop the show. (Adams is known for choreographing "Toy Story: The Musical," and he helped choreograph "The Lion King" for Hong Kong Disney.)
"We think this will be a journey of the heart for you," Marsha said. "We want you to allow your heart to be introduced to this story as told by the village of Harambe with the authentic dance and culture."
After Marsha spoke, we were invited into a rehearsal room for a glimpse of three scenes from the show. Understandably, no recording devices were allowed.
I can't wait to see this show in person!
In a word -- flavorful! I don't think guests, even those who consider themselves foodies, will be disappointed by the food served at Harambe Nights. Items are served at various cooking stations and are paired with the available beer and wines.
Some of our favorites include:
Roasted Beetroot Salad with Sunflower Seeds
... On-stage-seared lamb chops with tamarind pomegranate sauce
... the Fork-tender peri barbecued pork.
... Mango, radish, lime and mustard seed salad
Here are two of the vegetarian dishes:
Heirloom Legume Wat served over Basmati Rice
Eggplant Tikka Masala Curry served over Creamy Goat Cheese Pap
The desserts were delicious as well. My favorites were the Caramel-salted Tanzania chocolate Kenya coffee bite and the Chai cream with zebra stripes from Sanaa.
Chef Robert Gilbert, Executive Chef of Catering Operations, discusses how to bring a most authentic experience to this event:
The culinary team made sure to include a few vegan offerings in the foods. Guests who are vegan, eat gluten-free, or have specific dietary should talk to the Disney Chefs in person about their dining needs when they arrive at Harambe Nights.
This is going to be a great experience, and I'm really glad I have tickets for the first show. I am impressed with the food and the small part of the show that we saw. It's easy to imagine a festive street party in Harambe Village, and I can see myself having a fun time, maybe even dancing!
My only concern is about the weather. On the evening of our preview, the skies were threatening and so we were inside Tusker House. I was assured there are contingency plans for the rain, but I wonder how much an indoor setting will "dampen" the experience of the party and impact the overall experience.
General admission tickets for Harambe Nights cost $119 for ages 10 and up or $79 fpr ages 9 and younger. Premium floor-seat tickets were initially available and are now sold out for all nights. The event runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m., and parking is complimentary.
Narrators for Harambe Nights are:
June 7: Viola Davis
June 14: Avery Brooks
June 21: Montego Glover
June 28: David Alan Grier
July 5: Michael Beach
July 12: Harry Lennix
July 19: Joe Morton
July 26: Alfre Woodard
Aug. 2: Brian Stokes Mitchell
Aug. 9: Patina Miller
To reserve tickets for Harambe Nights, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.