(CTN NEWS) – Disney Theatrical’s The Lion King joined only two other Broadway productions in entertaining audiences for a full 25 years on November 13.
The production, which features music by Disney Legends Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice, debuted in 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theatre before moving to the Minskoff Theatre.
This remarkable occasion was celebrated on Sunday with a truly star-studded 25th-anniversary performance.
The Lion King by Disney is one of the few productions that can be passed down from one generation to the next with as much meaning.
The vivid, moving short was made in collaboration with ArtClass Jamaal Parham and Bashan Aquart (also known as the Brooklyn-based directorial team “Jams x Bash”) and was shot on location in New York City.
It stars the current Lion King ensemble.
In addition to dazzling audiences for more than two decades in New York City, The Lion King has also delighted audiences in more than 100 cities across 21 countries, except for Antarctica.
There are currently nine productions of The Lion King running worldwide: Broadway, London, Paris, Hamburg, Madrid, on tour in North America, the UK & Ireland, and a separate production touring internationally.
The Lion King has been performed throughout its history in 9 different languages: English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese.
Never before has a show in its 25th year performed in as many countries simultaneously and maintained its position among the top five most-grossing Broadway productions for as long (nearly 1,300 consecutive weeks and counting).
These nine productions (on three continents) currently provide the show for 115,000 viewers each week.
The production—produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the jurisdiction of Thomas Schumacher)—has now been seen by an astonishing 112 million people.
And its worldwide gross eclipses that of any film, Broadway musical, or another entertainment title in box office history.
Six Tony® Awards were presented in 1998 for The Lion King, including Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan).
Best Costume Design and Best Direction of a Musical (Julie Taymor, a Disney Legend).
Taymor, the first female recipient of the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, is still actively involved in the production, creating new productions and sustaining the main Broadway performance.
Meanwhile, The Lion King has helped composer Lebo M and Tony-winning choreographer Fagan breaks records on Broadway.
With over 9,700 performances, they are the longest-running Black composer and choreographers in Broadway history.
Amazingly, several additional actors, musicians, and artistic team members from The Lion King’s current production are still a vital part of the show.
“Circle of Life” is a tribute to the friendly, familial atmosphere permeating the play.
Since joining the show’s triple-threat ensemble during its summer 1997 pre-Broadway run, South African performer Lindiwe Dlamini.
She admits, “We had no idea how the show would turn out when we first started.” “After the auditions and rehearsals, we were able to see the costumes.”
I wondered, “How are we going to perform in these? How should we move while dressed as hyenas? Observing the entire process—learning all these movements, singing, dancing, and [performing] with puppets—was [inspiring].
“We have something amazing here.” I thought as the first day of previews approached.
Dlamini and those cast members from Minneapolis are part of a very select club because they got to see people see the show—director Taymor’s soon-to-win Tony—for the very first time.
“Because it was the first time that people saw something this unique in theatre,” she admits, “I wish a lot of people who perform in The Lion King [now] could experience it.”
L. Steven Taylor, who plays Mufasa in The Lion King and is a castmate of Dlamini’s on Broadway, has been with the production for 17 years and believes that the characters are the key to the longevity of the production.
The fact that the characters have real-world situations that are relatable to regular people, he asserts, “may make them seem larger than life, but I’ve always said that the thing that makes the show timeless is that.
And depending on where you are in life, that can change.
What parent can’t relate to wanting to impart knowledge and wisdom to their child while also finding it difficult to give them responsibility without lowering their light?
To use my character Mufasa as an example? People experience phases and stages as they develop and change.
The theme of evolution and growth—which is what our show is about—is represented right there, in the more than two decades of the show, which is kind of crazy when you look at the show through the lens of its 25 years [of life].
And the show’s future is as bright as that sun in its never-ending “sapphire sky,” partly because of the touching story at its centre.
The story, according to Kendra Moore, a former Lion King tour ensemble member who now works in the Broadway production’s Company Management department. “We can all relate to this narrative.
That story is told in that manner. Amazingly, Julie Taymor had the idea to adapt the movie for the stage.
And it’s the people, not just the performers, the great bunch of people who put on the show, but also the talented people who work in the front and back of the house, marketing and ticketing, and all other areas of the production.
The entire group contributes to what makes it unique, not just one person.
The amazing anniversary celebrations this Sunday are shown in the video below:
In New York City and across the globe, The Lion King is now in its 25th year at the Minskoff Theatre.
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