The stage musical version of The Lion King is twenty years old and still going from strength to strength, and now heading the Broadway list of top money earning shows of all time. Music and Lyrics are, of course, like the 1994 animated film by Elton John and Tim Rice working on what otherwise is a pure American production.
Disney Theatrical Productions were behind the stage show. They had found gold in bringing Beauty and the Beast to the stage and were looking at the studio’s back catalogue to give it a new life. Their brilliance with this film was to put under contract Julie Taymor to bring it to the stage. Taymor, the director, was the one with the vision. She brought to the show her own kind of magic replacing the animation with the very theatrical use of costumes and puppets. The Lion King relies more on stage craft than mechanical effects and successfully reproduces an African background to this loving animal tale.
‘Musical Theatre Melodies’ will feature a 20th Anniversary tribute to the stage musical on Tuesday, 14th November (see details below).
There are many changes in the stage show as would be expected. The main being the change of sex of Rafiki, a male in the film, to bring something of a love interest to the stage. There are also additional scenes to give depth to the characters and to the score to allow for this.
The Lion King was first seen in Minneapolis in July 1997 where it proved, without doubt, to have the makings of a hit. It opened on Broadway on 13 November 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theatre after beginning previews on 15 October. It transferred to the Minskoff Theatre in 2006 where it is still playing. As well as being the highest grossing show ever it is now third in the list of long running Broadway shows.
The London production opened at the Lyceum Theatre on 19 October 1999 and has remained there ever since. Other productions have gone on to play all over the world including China. It also has toured extensively both in the States and in the UK. Las Vegas has its own special version that has been on view for over a decade.
The latest development in the successful Lion King saga is the announcement that there is to be a live action remake of the original film to be directed by Jon Favreau. Favreau has just directed a new version of Disney’s The Jungle Book, which has live action with some animation.
It follows other successful live action film remakes of Disney classics such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The score will no doubt follow closely that of the stage version with its additional material by Hans Zimmer.
RSB Illustration from the Overtures Archive
Musical Theatre Melodies details:
The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EDT local Melbourne time; (= 10 a.m. – 12 noon GMT in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZDT; = 5 – 7 a.m. EST New York time; = 2 – 4 a.m. PST Los Angeles time.)
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