The Lion King celebrates triumphant return to Broadway

The highest-grossing Broadway musicals of all time returned to the stage Tuesday, Sept. 14 along with other blockbuster hits. “When you think of New York City… it’s the capital of arts and culture,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “People love Broadway. When Broadway is up and running, it says so much about New York City. And tonight, a lot of Broadway is coming back… You can feel the life of the city coming back.” Photo courtesy of The Lion King

Hit show delivers emotional first performance in 18 months following Broadway’s shutdown

THE Lion King  returned to Broadway on Tuesday night, September 14, following the unprecedented 18-month shutdown of the theater industry.

In a Broadway first, the performance of “Circle Of Life” was live-streamed on TikTok, opening up the historic evening to fans all over the world.

The starry evening included  The Today Show’s  Jenna Bush Hager and , Carson Daly,  Gloria Steinem  (whose life is the focus of the 2020 Taymor film,  The Glorias),  Kristin Chenoweth,  Salman Rushdie, Jelani Alladin,  Heidi Blickenstaff,  Ashley Brown, Greg Hildreth, John Riddle and three stars of  Aladdin, which will celebrate its Broadway reopening on Tuesday, September 28:  Michael Maliakel (Aladdin),  Michael James Scott  (Genie) and  Shoba Narayan  (Jasmine).

Among the Broadway cast of the  The Lion King is Vince Ermita, a young Filipino American who appears on the show as Young Simba. Among the other stars of the musical are  Stephen Carlile as Scar, L. Steven Taylor as Mufasa,  Tshidi Manye as Rafiki,  Cameron Pow as Zazu,  Ben Jeffrey as Pumbaa,  Fred Berman as Timon,  Brandon A. McCall as Simba,  Adrienne Walker as Nala,  James Brown-Orleans  as Banzai,  Bonita J. Hamilton  as Shenzi and  Robb Sapp as Ed. Corey J. is a  Young Simba  alternate and Alayna Martus  and  Sydney Elise Russell  alternate as Young Nala.

The Lion King also features  Lawrence Keith Alexander,  Cameron Amandus,  Leanne Antonio,  Andrew Arrington,  India Bolds Browne,  Lindiwe Dlamini,  Zinhle Dube,  Bongi Duma,  Angelica Edwards,  Jim Ferris,  Rosie Lani Feldman,  Daniel Gaymon,  Pia Hamilton,  Daniel Harder,  Michael Alexander Henry,  Michael Hollick,  Pearl Khwezi,  Lindsey Jackson,  Lisa Lewis,  Mduduzi Madela,  Jaysin McCollum,  Ray Mercer,  S’bu Ngema,  Nhlanhla Ngobeni,  Nteliseng Nkhela,  Jacqueline René,  Kaylin Seckel,  Kellen Stencil,  Housso Semon,  Derrick Spear, Michael Stiggers Jr.,  Jamie J. Thompson,  Bravita Threatt,  Natalie Turner,  Donna Michelle Vaughan,  Nicholas Ward  and  Stephen Scott Wormley.

Approaching 24 landmark years on Broadway, The Lion King continues as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  Since its premiere on November 13, 1997, 25 global productions have been seen by nearly 110 million people.  Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years and four others running 20 or more years.

Performed over its lifetime in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), by the end of 2021, there will be ten productions of The Lion King around the world, including Broadway, London, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo, Madrid, on tour across North America, Japan and the U.K. & Ireland, with a separate production touring internationally. Having played over 100 cities in 21 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s 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 show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer  Julie Taymo  continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success.  The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor continues to supervise new productions of the show around the world.

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 AcademyAward®-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 Doc Zorthian  (production supervisor). Anne Quart serves as co-producer.

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