The Lion King (musical)
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The Lion King is an award-winning Broadway stage musical based on the movie and is directed by Julie Taymor, featuring actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. The stage show first opened on July 31st, 1997 in Minneapolis at the Orpheum Theatre, and was an instant and tremendous success, moving permanently to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway in New York that October. A version later opened in London, and another in Toronto, playing there until January 2004. In June of 2006, the Broadway production will move to the Minskoff Theater to make way for the musical version of Mary Poppins.
After the Broadway show was a success, the United Kingdom were immediately at the post for getting this spectacle, which can be watched in the Lyceum Theatre in London. Julie Taymore led the English production of the show, with Peter Schneider as the producer. The South Bank Show were allowed to record the behind-the-scenes of the production. Adverts for the English
show were added to some Disney videos, hosted by Fearne Cotton.
There are currently two U.S. touring productions. The tour version is very similar to the original Broadway production;
however, certain scenic elements which rise out of the stage floor (such as Pride Rock, the stampede, and the grasslands)
were converted to less costly configurations for the touring productions.
International productions of the show are now playing in:
Hamburg, Germany: Lion King Theater
There were several changes and additions to the storyline from the film, the mandrill Rafiki's gender was changed to a female role, as Taymor believed there was generally no leading female character in the film, and
also an added scene during the later years where Timon tumbled down a waterfall and Simba was telepathically contacted by
his deceased father, and Pumbaa had to be the hero. Lebo M. led the chorus as its composer, the chorus was now shown in the production instead of being hidden in the shadows like most
productions have done. Like its predecessor, the Beauty and the Beast production, the Lion King has had a number of new songs added in, including The Morning Report sung by Zazu the hornbill (this song became an official song that was added in the film in its special edition release on DVD), Shadow
Land sang by an adult Nala, and One By One, an African-styled song sung by the chorus.
Many of the animals portrayed in the production were actors in costume with extra tools to move their costumes. For example,
the giraffes were portrayed by actors carefully walking on stilts. Principal characters like Simba, Mufasa, Scar, Rafiki and
Nala were portrayed by actors wearing elegant costumes and wearing robotic headsets that would automatically come down when
they bend down for an action. Several other characters like the Hyenas, Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa were portrayed by actors in
life-sized puppets or costumes. Characters like the Hyenas and Pumbaa had the actors inside special puppet-costumes and used
their hands to move the heads of the characters, while Timon and Zazu's actors controlled the puppets, dressed in costume
as well. The character for Timon was described by Taymor to be one of the hardest roles to master, as the movement of the
puppet's head and arms would put strain on the actor's arms, back and neck.
Lebo M. also taught the actors to sing at the right tone and pitch, to perfect their voices. A new section of the production
was the Lioness Hunt where actresses dressed in costumes danced a complicated sequence. The cheographer of the production,
Garth Facan led the teaching of the dance. The actresses have hard times in the training, and from footage from the South Bank Show,
it becomes more complicated when they are wearing the headsets.
The character Rafiki, the shaman-like mandrill character of the film, was transformed from a male character, to a female character. Julie believed
Rafiki should be a female character, as she believed there was no strong female characters in the film. Rafiki was portrayed
by Tsidii Le Loka in the original Broadway musical, and by Josette Bushell-Mingo in the British verison. An interesting fact is when the British production was in the planning stages, Julie Taymore, Lebo
M. and Josette Bushelle-Mungo travelled to Africa to experience the animals the show would portray. Josette and Julie met a female shaman in Africa who gave them advice on
how to portray a shaman figure in a theatre production.
The show won many awards for its brilliance in 1997. For more information see the section below.
The show is produced by Disney Theatrical.
The Lion King was nominated for the following Tony Awards in 1997:
Original Broadway cast
The Lion King: The Broadway Musical celebrated its world premiere at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN, on July
8, 1997. Now playing at the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, this musical version of Disney's greatest animated feature
ever has already drawn rave reviews for its dazzling special effects and staging, the inspired music by Tim Rice, Elton John,
Hans Zimmer, and Lebo M., and for its nearly magical performance by a cast using masks and puppetry combined with live acting
to convey the atmosphere of The Lion King.
This production broke new ground in theatrical technology, attempting to bring to the stage such vast and sweeping
elements as the rolling African savannah and the famous wildebeest stampede in which Mufasa is killed by his brother Scar.
Far from shrinking from the challenge or toning down the scale of the film, director Julie Taymor succeeded in the superhuman
feat of reproducing the film's vastness through ingenious staging techniques and experimental methods worthy of Walt Disney
Theatrical, producers of the wildly popular Beauty and the Beast Broadway musical, which also debuted at the Orpheum.
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