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The Lion King (musical)

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The Lion King
The Lion King Musical.svg
Poster from the Broadway Production
Music Elton John
Lyrics Tim Rice
Book Roger Allers
Irene Mecchi
Basis 1994 Disney animated film
The Lion King
Productions 1997 Minneapolis
1997 Broadway
1998 Tokyo
1999 Japan National Tour
1999 West End
2000 Toronto
2000 Los Angeles
2001 Hamburg
2002 U.S. National Tour
2003 U.S. National Tour
2003 Sydney
2004 The Hague
2006 Shanghai
2006 Seoul
2007 Johannesburg
2007 Paris
2008 Taipei
2009 Las Vegas
2011 Singapore
2011 Madrid
2012 U.K. National Tour
2013 São Paulo
2013 Sydney
2015 Basel
2015 Mexico City
2015 Chicago
Awards 1998 Tony Award for Best Musical

The Lion King is a musical based on the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice along with the musical score created by Hans Zimmer with choral arrangements by Lebo M. Directed by Julie Taymor, the musical features actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. The show is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions.

The musical debuted July 8, 1997, in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Orpheum Theatre, and was an instant success before premiering on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997 in previews with the official opening on November 13, 1997. On June 13, 2006, the Broadway production moved to the Minskoff Theatre to make way for the musical version of Mary Poppins, where it is still running after more than 6,700 performances.[1] It is Broadway's third longest-running show in history and the highest grossing Broadway production of all time, having grossed more than $1 billion.[2][3]

The show debuted in the West End's Lyceum Theatre on October 19, 1999 and is still running. The cast of the West End production were invited to perform at the Royal Variety Performance 2008 at the London Palladium on December 11, in the presence of senior members of the British Royal Family.[4]

In September 2014, The Lion King became the top-earning title in box-office history for both stage productions and films, surpassing the record previously held by Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, of which was the first to gross over $6 billion.[5]

U.S. and international productions

Hamburg, Germany: Theater im Hafen (since 2001), accessible by boat

United States

There is currently one U.S. touring production. (At one time there were 2 US touring productions travelling simultaneously). 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. The sun during the opening is reduced in size for the shorter-lasting tours. Stage sizes are also smaller, and the size of the pit orchestra is decreased.

A Las Vegas production opened at Mandalay Bay on May 15, 2009 with previews beginning May 5, 2009.[6]

A Los Angeles production began performances at the Pantages Theatre on September 29, 2000 with an official opening on October 19, 2000. The show closed on January 12, 2003 after 952 performances.


A Canadian production of the show was staged in Toronto and ran for nearly four years at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The show ran from 1999–2004.


The musical had a Mexican limited run (in English) between January 3 and January 27, 2008 in Mexico City, as part of the U.S. national tour.[7]

In May 2014, it was confirmed that a new production of the musical, this time in Spanish, would start in Mexico City's Teatro Telcel. The production started on May 7, 2015, with a new cast. Actor Carlos Rivera returned to the role of Simba, which he also took in Spain four years earlier. The lyrics of the songs of this production differ from the European Spanish one. South-African actress Shirley Hlahatse was chosen as Rafiki, marking the first time in years a completely new actress was elected for that role.[8]

South America

A Brazilian production was confirmed to debut in São Paulo in March 28, 2013.[9] Auditions take place in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The cast contain mainly Brazilian actors and seven South African actors.[10] The Portuguese lyrics were translated by Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil.

Actress Phindile Mkhize, who had previously performed in many of the show's productions, was selected as Rafiki for this production, leaving in October 2013 and being replaced by Ntsepa Ptjeng. The show closed its doors on December 14, 2014. [11]


United Kingdom

After the success of the Broadway show, the show opened in the United Kingdom in on October 19, 1999. The cast included Cornell John as Mufasa, Luke Youngblood as Young Simba, Dominique Moore as Young Nala, Martyn Ellis as Pumbaa, Simon Gregor as Timon, Rob Edwards as Scar, Paul J. Medford as Banzai and Josette Bushell-Mingo as Rafiki.[12][13] As of October 2015, it has been playing at the Lyceum Theatre in London for 16 years. Taymor directed the British production of the show, with Melissa De Melo as the producer. The show also toured the UK from 2012 until March 2015.[14]

Other countries

The German production has been playing in Hamburg at the Theater im Hafen since December 2001 and had its 5000th performance on January 14, 2014. Access to the theater is by ferry, where the boats are decorated in the colors of the musical and are named after characters in the musical (like Nala and its sister ship Rafiki).

The musical's 2004 Dutch production was produced by Joop van den Ende Theaterproducties/Stage Entertainment and Disney Theatrical Group and played at the Circustheater in Scheveningen until August 27, 2006, replaced by another Disney musical, Tarzan.

The Lion King Musical debuted in Paris on September 22, 2007 in Stage Entertainment's Théâtre Mogador.

On October 20, 2011 the first Spanish production opened at Teatro Lope de Vega in Madrid, produced by Stage Entertainment.[15]

In Switzerland, the musical will be performed for the first time starting March 2015, with shows planned until the end of May.[16]


Beginning in June 2007, The Lion King Musical debuted its first ever performance on the African continent in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its tenth year anniversary was celebrated in the new Teatro Theatre at Monte Casino in Fourways. The Lion King is the first production to take place in the new theatre. The opening night in Johannesburg, was celebrated with key persons involving the creation of the Lion King Musical, and American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who had recently opened an educational academy for girls in Johannesburg[17] The show closed on February 17, 2008.

Asia and Australasia

The show was translated into Japanese and staged by the Shiki Theatre Company. The Tokyo production began in 1998 and continues to the present day at the Shiki Theatre HARU.[18] The production achieved its 10,000th performance on 15 July 2015.[19]

The show played at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, Australia, from October 16, 2003, until June 26, 2005. The production then ran at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne from July 28, 2005 until June 4, 2006. The Lion King returned to Sydney's Capitol Theatre on December 12, 2013.[20]

The musical had a Korean production from October 28, 2006 to October 28, 2007 at the Charlotte Theater, southern Seoul.

In August 2008, a production opened in Taipei, Taiwan, closing on August 24, 2009.

In June 2014, the Walt Disney Company announced that The Liong King Musical will be performing at the 1,200 capacity Walt Disney Grand Theatre, in the Shanghai Disney Resort. It will be performed in Mandarin.[21]

It was announced that the production will come to Russia in near future.


Act I

Actress Buyi Zama as Rafiki in Taiwan.

As the sun rises, Rafiki the mandrill calls the animals to Pride Rock. She greets King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi before presenting their cub to the gathered animals ("Circle of Life"). Elsewhere, Mufasa's brother, Scar, laments his lost chance at becoming king. Back at her baobab tree, Rafiki paints an image of the cub and asks the spirits to conjure the new prince's name: Simba.

Time passes and Simba grows into a lively young cub ("Grasslands Chant"). Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands from the top of Pride Rock and explains that everything exists in a delicate balance known as the Circle of Life. Mufasa warns Simba not to stray beyond the boundaries of the Pride Lands, pointing out a shadowy area in the distance. Zazu, a hornbill who acts as Mufasa's advisor, arrives and delivers his daily report on the state of affairs in the King's domain ("The Morning Report", now cut from the Broadway production).[22]

Simba goes to see his uncle Scar. The scheming lion piques the cub's curiosity by mentioning the elephant graveyard, where Simba is forbidden to go. Meanwhile, the lionesses go hunting ("The Lioness Hunt"). Simba arrives and asks his best friend, a female cub named Nala, to come with him to the elephant graveyard. He lies to the lionesses about where they are going, and Sarafina (Nala's mother) and Sarabi allow the cubs to go, escorted by Zazu. Simba and Nala formulate a plan and manage to lose Zazu, while Simba brags about his future position ("I Just Can't Wait to Be King").

The cubs go to the graveyard and begin to explore. Zazu catches up, but they are confronted by three hyenas: Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. The hyenas intend to eat the trespassers and gloat about their find ("Chow Down"). Mufasa rescues the cubs and frightens off the hyenas.

Mufasa is disappointed and angry at Simba's reckless disobedience, and explains the difference between bravery and bravado. Mufasa tells Simba about the great kings of the past and how they watch over everything from the stars ("They Live in You"). Mufasa says that he will always be there for his son. Later he discusses Simba's behavior with Zazu, who reminds Mufasa that he had the same tendency to get into trouble at Simba's age.

Back at the elephant graveyard, Scar tells the hyenas of his plan to kill Mufasa and Simba so that he can become king. He raises an army of hyenas, promising that they will never go hungry again if they support him ("Be Prepared"). Scar takes Simba to a gorge and tells him to wait there. On Scar's signal, the hyenas start a wildebeest stampede into the gorge ("The Stampede"). Scar tells Mufasa that Simba is trapped in the gorge. Mufasa leaps into the stampede and manages to save his son, but as he tries to escape, Scar throws him off the cliff back into the stampede killing him. Scar convinces Simba that his father's death was his fault and tells him to run away, but as he leaves, Scar orders the hyenas to kill him. Simba escapes but the hyenas tell Scar that he is dead. Rafiki and the lionesses mourn the deaths ("Rafiki Mourns"). Scar claims the throne and allows the hyenas into the Pride Lands ("Be Prepared (Reprise)"). Rafiki returns to her tree and smears the drawing of Simba, while Sarabi and Nala quietly grieve.

Out in the desert, Simba collapses from heat exhaustion. Vultures begin to circle, but are scared away by Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog. Simba feels responsible for Mufasa's death, but the duo take the cub to their jungle home and show him their carefree way of life and bug diet ("Hakuna Matata"). Simba grows to adulthood in the jungle.

Act II

The chorus, dressed in colorful clothes with ornate bird puppets and kites, begin the Second Act ("One by One"). As the song ends, however, the beautiful birds are replaced by vultures and gazelle skeletons. Under Scar's rule, the Circle of Life is out of balance and a drought has hit the Pride Lands. Zazu, now a prisoner of Scar, listens to the king's woes. The hyenas are complaining about the lack of food, but Scar is only concerned with himself and why he is not loved. He is haunted by visions of Mufasa and rapidly switches between delusional confidence and paranoid despair ("The Madness of King Scar"). Nala arrives to confront Scar about the famine and Scar decides she will be his queen and give him cubs. Nala fiercely rebukes him and resolves to leave the Pride Lands to find help. Rafiki and the lionesses bless her for her journey ("Shadowland").

Back in the jungle, Timon and Pumbaa want to sleep, but the restless Simba is unable to settle. Annoyed, Simba leaves them, but Timon and Pumbaa lose their courage and follow him. Simba leaps across a fast-moving river and challenges Timon to do the same. Timon falls in and is swept downstream. He grabs a branch over a waterfall and calls for Simba's help, but Simba is paralysed by a flashback of Mufasa's death. Timon falls from the branch and Simba snaps out of the flashback, rescuing his friend. Simba is ashamed that Timon nearly died because of his recklessness.

The three friends settle to sleep and discuss the stars. Simba recalls Mufasa's words, but his friends laugh at the notion of dead kings watching them. Simba leaves, expressing his loneliness and bitterly recalling Mufasa's promise to be there for him ("Endless Night"). Rafiki hears the song on the wind, joyfully realises that Simba is alive, and draws a mane onto her painting of Simba.

In the jungle, Pumbaa is hunted and chased by a lioness. Simba confronts her and saves his friend, but recognises the lioness as Nala. She is amazed to find Simba alive, knowing that he is the rightful king. Timon and Pumbaa are confused, but Simba asks them to leave him and Nala alone. Timon realizes what is happening and laments the end of Simba's Hakuna Matata lifestyle ("Can You Feel the Love Tonight"). Nala tells Simba about the devastated Pride Lands, but Simba still feels responsible for Mufasa's death and refuses to return.

On his own, Simba meets Rafiki, who explains that his father lives on ("He Lives in You"). Mufasa's spirit appears in the sky and tells Simba he is the one true king and must take his place in the Circle of Life. Reawakened, Simba finds his courage and heads for home. Meanwhile, Nala wakes Timon and Pumbaa to ask where Simba is, and Rafiki appears to tell them all the news. The three of them catch up with him in the Pride Lands, where he witnesses the ruin of his home. Timon and Pumbaa distract some hyenas by doing the Charleston, allowing Simba and Nala to reach Pride Rock.

Scar calls for Sarabi and demands to know why the lionesses are not hunting. Sarabi stands up to him about the lack of anything to hunt, angrily comparing him to Mufasa, and Scar strikes his sister-in-law, saying he's ten times the king Mufasa was. Enraged, Simba reveals himself. Scar forces a confession of murder from Simba and corners him. Believing that he has won, Scar taunts Simba by admitting that he killed Mufasa. Furious, Simba recovers and forces Scar to reveal the truth to the lionesses ("Simba Confronts Scar"). Simba's friends fight the hyenas while Simba battles Scar to the top of Pride Rock. Scar begs for his life, blaming the hyenas for everything. Simba lets him leave out of mercy, but Scar attacks again. Simba blocks the attack and Scar falls from the cliff. The hyenas, who heard Scar's betrayal and are still starving, tear him to shreds.

With the battle won, Simba's friends come forward and acknowledge Simba as the rightful king. Simba ascends Pride Rock and roars out across the kingdom ("King of Pride Rock"). The Pride Lands recover and the animals gather in celebration as Rafiki presents Simba and Nala's newborn cub, continuing the Circle of Life ("Circle of Life (Reprise)").


Act I
Song Written by Performed by Sample
"Circle of Life" Elton John and Tim Rice Rafiki and Ensemble
"Grasslands Chant" Lebo M Ensemble
"The Morning Report"* Elton John and Tim Rice Zazu, Young Simba and Mufasa
"The Lioness Hunt" Lebo M Ensemble
"I Just Can't Wait to Be King" Elton John and Tim Rice Young Simba, Young Nala, Zazu and Ensemble
"Chow Down" Shenzi, Banzai and Ed
"They Live in You" Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebo M Mufasa and Ensemble
"Be Prepared" Elton John and Tim Rice Scar, Shenzi, Banzai, Ed and Ensemble
"The Stampede" Hans Zimmer and Lebo M Ensemble and Rafiki
"Rafiki Mourns" Ensemble
"Hakuna Matata" Elton John and Tim Rice Timon, Pumbaa, Young Simba, Simba and Ensemble
Act II
Song Written by Performed by Sample
"One by One" Lebo M Ensemble
"The Madness of King Scar" Elton John and Tim Rice Scar, Zazu, Banzai, Shenzi, Ed and Nala
"Shadowland" Hans Zimmer, Lebo M, and Mark Mancina Nala, Rafiki and Ensemble About this sound sample 
"Endless Night" Julie Taymor, Lebo M, Hans Zimmer and Jay Rifkin Simba and Ensemble
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" Elton John and Tim Rice Timon, Pumbaa, Simba, Nala and Ensemble
"He Lives in You (Reprise)" Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebo M Rafiki, Simba and Ensemble About this sound sample 
"Simba Confronts Scar" Mark Mancina and Robert Elhai Instrumental
"King of Pride Rock/Circle of Life (Reprise)" Hans Zimmer and Lebo M/Elton John and Tim Rice Rafiki, Simba, Nala, Pumbaa, Timon, Zazu and Ensemble

* Cut from the show as of June 27, 2010

Musical adaptation

The musical incorporates several changes and additions to the storyline as compared to the film. The mandrill Rafiki's gender was changed to a female role because Taymor believed that there was generally no leading female character in the film.[23] Rafiki was portrayed by Tsidii Le Loka in the original Broadway musical, and by Josette Bushell-Mingo in the original London production.

The Lion King on Broadway showing originally at the New Amsterdam Theater (shown); it is now showing at the Minskoff.

Several new scenes are present, including a conversation between Mufasa and Zazu about Mufasa's parenting and a perilous scene in which Timon finds himself nearly drowning in a waterfall while Simba feels powerless to help him. A major narrative addition is the depiction of Nala's departure in the scene "The Madness of King Scar", where the mentally deteriorating villain tries to make Nala his mate. Nala refuses and later announces her intention to depart the Pride Lands and find help. She receives the blessings of the lionesses and Rafiki during the new song "Shadowland".

The Lion King in the West End

Like its predecessor, the Beauty and the Beast musical, the show adds more songs to its stage production, including "Morning Report", sung by Zazu the hornbill and later added to the film for the Platinum Edition DVD release. "Shadowland". originally featured on the CD Rhythm of the Pride Lands with Zulu lyrics as "Lea Halelela", was adapted for the musical with new English lyrics. It is sung by Nala, the lionesses, and Rafiki. "Endless Night", also from Rhythm of the Pride Lands with Swahili lyrics as "Lala", is sung by Simba while reflecting on Mufasa's promise to always be there. "One by One" from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands CD was adapted as the rousing African-styled entre act sung by the chorus at the opening of the second act.

Many of the animals portrayed in the production are actors in costume using extra tools to move their costumes. For example, the giraffes are portrayed by actors walking on stilts. For principal characters such as Mufasa and Scar, the costumes feature mechanical headpieces that can be raised and lowered to foster the illusion of a cat "lunging" at another. Other characters, such as the hyenas, Zazu, Timon, and Pumbaa, are portrayed by actors in life-sized puppets or costumes. The Timon character is described by Taymor as one of the hardest roles to master because the movement of the puppet's head and arms puts a strain on the actor's arms, back, and neck.[24]

Composer Lebo M led the original Broadway chorus.[24] The chorus members are usually visible in the production, rather than being hidden in the shadows as seen in some other musical shows.

A new section of the production, the Lioness Hunt, features a particularly complicated dance sequence for the actresses, and the dance is made even more difficult by the large headpieces worn during the scene.

During the show's run in China, Chinese elements were included in the musical. One of the songs was adapted to a well-known Chinese pop song, "Laoshu ai dami" or "Mice Love Rice". The cast even cracked jokes and attempted conversations with the audience in Chinese.[25]

As of June 27, 2010, nine minutes of the Broadway version were cut, among them the entire "Morning Report" musical number.[22] The song was also removed from subsequent productions and cast recordings, such as the Spanish one.