Disney's The Lion King roared onto the silver screen in 1994. It's an epic tale of a young cub, Simba, and his journey as he struggles to fulfill his destiny to become king. The animated musical spawned two additional movies, a television series and a multitude of merchandising. In 1997, The Lion King arrived on Broadway.
The Broadway production of The Lion King opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Nov. 13, 1997. The musical ran at this theater until June 4, 2006, before it moved to the Minskoff Theatre on June 13, 2006, reports the Internet Broadway Database. By 2012, The Lion King had roared on Broadway with more than 5,000 performances.
Cartoon to stage
Adapting a blockbuster, full-length, animated feature to the stage was not without challenges, especially when all the characters were animals. The Lion King on Broadway is not a jungle version of Cats. It is a stylized masterpiece presented in true Disney extravaganza fashion. Director Julie Taymor wowed audiences more than 10 years ago with her vision of this now-classic Disney tale. She brought the pride to life with larger-than-life puppetry techniques, masks and an intricate interweaving of traditional theater and bold, visual effects. Taymor went on to win the 1998 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.
The Lion King movie won two Oscars for its music. The Broadway version won the 1998 Tony for Best Musical. The legendary Elton John wrote the original music with lyrics by Tim Rice (Chess, Evita, Beauty and the Beast). The two created a range of songs to stir the emotions of audiences, such as the opening lines of The Circle of Life. Rice writes, "From the day we arrive on the planet / and blinking step into the sun / There's more to be seen, than can ever be seen / more to do than can ever be done." The song is timeless, speaking to all ages, genders and nationalities. The Lion King also gives audiences toe-tapping numbers such as I Just Can't Wait to Be King and Hakuna Matata.
Lions, hyenas and warthogs, oh my! From the regal lions to the conniving hyenas and the chorus ensemble of zebras, gazelles and more, the stage production offers a menagerie of animals. There's something for all ages in The Lion King, including the comedic antics of Timon (a meerkat) and Pumbaa (a warthog). The two even get their own song, Hakuna Matata.
The Lion King on Broadway has successfully brought to life one of Disney's most beloved, animated features. It balances serious subject matter with both tender and laugh-out-loud moments. If you get the chance to catch The Lion King on Broadway, be prepared (as the character Scar would say). The show runs two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Can't make it to New York to catch a performance on Broadway? The Lion King has touring productions visiting various cities.