Photo by Little Fang
For only the 3rd time in history, a Broadway production reaches the quarter-century milestone
The Lion King, called by the Associated Press, “the top ticket of all time,“ celebrated its 25th anniversary yesterday Sunday, November 13th.
While two Broadway juggernauts have previously reached this milestone, The Lion King marks several historic firsts. Never before has a show in its 25th year been playing in so many productions around the world simultaneously and placed in the Top 5 grossing Broadway shows this long – nearly 1,300 consecutive weeks and counting. Currently, 115,000 people enjoy the show in nine productions on three continents every week. There have been 27 productions over the life of the show, seen by a staggering 112 million people. That is more than the combined populations of Canada, Greece, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Australia.
The Broadway production opened on November 13, 1997 and has played through four NYC Mayoral administrations, five presidential administrations and 11 Olympics.
Director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor, the first woman to win a Tony Award® for Best Director of a Musical, remains actively involved in the show, launching new productions and maintaining the flagship Broadway production.
Composer Lebo M and the Tony-winning choreographer Garth Fagan hold their own Broadway records; with The Lion King at over 9,700 main stem performances, they are the longest running Black composer and choreographer in Broadway history.
Extraordinarily, many of the artists and craftspeople who launched the show remain an integral part of it. Lindiwe Dlamini has performed in the show since its first pre-Broadway preview in Minneapolis in summer 1997. Seven musicians have been in the orchestra pit since its Broadway opening, including Karl Jurman, who has been musical director since 2005. All told, 16 original staff members continue their vital work onstage and off.
ABOUT THE LION KING
Approaching 25 landmark years on Broadway, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King has made theatrical history with two productions worldwide running 15 or more years and two others running 20 or more years.
Performed over its lifetime in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), there are currently nine productions of The Lion King around the world: Broadway, London, Paris, Hamburg, Madrid, Tokyo, on tour across North America and the U.K. & Ireland, with a separate production touring internationally. The Lion King has played over 100 cities in 24 countries on every continent except Antarctica; its worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.
The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical. The Lion King has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.
The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from “Rhythm of the Pride Lands,” an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer. The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to Lebo M’s rich choral numbers.
Elton John, Lebo M, and Hans Zimmer all collaborated on the 2019 version of the film, executive produced by Julie Taymor and Thomas Schumacher, which has gone onto extraordinary worldwide success.
The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated The Lion King feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay. Other members of the creative team include: Michael Curry, who designed the masks and puppets with Taymor, Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Michael Ward (hair and makeup design), Anthony Lyn (associate director), Marey Griffith (associate choreographer), Clement Ishmael (music supervisor) and Lisa Dawn Cave (production supervisor). Anne Quart serves as co-producer.