ABOUT THE LION KING
Based on the 1994 Walt Disney Animation Studios' animated feature film of the same name, The Lion King is a Broadway and West End musical, with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, along with additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, and Hans Zimmer. The musical premiered on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on October 17, 1997 – it is Broadway’s third longest-running show in history and has been seen by over 100 million people. The show features both large, hollow puppets and actors in animal costumes, and is directed by Taymor. In 2014, The Lion King became the top-earning title in box-office history for both stage productions and films.
The sun rises over Pride Rock and Rafiki gathers the animals of the lands together, greeting King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi before presenting their new cub to all who are there. Meanwhile, the king’s brother, Scar (who is not in attendance), bemoans his lost opportunity to be king. At Rafiki’s baobab tree, the mandrill calls to the spirits to name the child – Simba – while she paints an image of the new prince.
Simba grows into a spirited and curious young cub. He is shown the Pride Lands from the top of Pride Rock by his father and Mufasa explains to him that everything is part of the Circle of Life – the deft balance of existence. Simba is warned against the shadows in the distance which lie beyond the Pride Lands and is told not to go there. Mufasa’s advisor – a hornbill named Zazu – arrives to update the King on his affairs.
During a visit to his uncle, Simba is intrigued by Scar’s mention of the elephant graveyard, which resides in the shadowy area where the cub is forbidden to go. Elsewhere, the lionesses are getting ready to hunt. When Simba arrives, he discusses the elephant graveyard with his best friend, Nala, and they hatch a scheme to go there, lying to the lionesses about where they are going. Sarafina (Nala's mother) and Sarabi grant the cubs permission to go, so long as they are accompanied by Zazu. Simba and Nala shake Zazu loose while Simba boasts about inheriting the throne when he grows up.
The cubs find the graveyard and begin to investigate. They are found by Zazu, but also by three hungry hyenas: Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, who intend to eat them and begin bragging about their catch. The cubs (and Zazu) are saved by Mufasa, who scares the hyenas away. Talking to his son, Mufasa expresses his exasperation and disappointment that Simba disobeyed him, and highlights the difference between boastfulness and true courage. He tells Simba of his ancestors – the great kings of the past – and says that they keep watch over everything. He also tells Simba that he will always be there for him. Afterward, Mufasa expresses concern to Zazu of Simba’s recklessness but is reminded by the bird that he also had a propensity for getting into scrapes at Simba’s age.
Meanwhile, at the elephant graveyard, Scar announces to the hyenas his plans to kill Simba and Mufasa and become king himself. He drives up hyena support in droves by promising them an endless supply of food in exchange for their support. Scar enacts his plan by leading Simba to a gorge and telling him to stay put. As he waits, Scar signals the hyenas to drive a stampede of wildebeest through the gorge, while he tells Mufasa that Simba is stuck in the stampede. Mufasa rescues his son, but when he attempts to get away, Scar pushes him off a cliff and into the stampede again, killing him. Scar tells Simba of Mufasa’s death and convinces Simba that it was his fault, telling him to leave the Pride Lands and never come back. The hyenas are ordered by Scar to kill Simba as he leaves. They are unsuccessful and he escapes, but they announce to Scar that he is dead. Rafiki and the pride mourn the deaths of Simba and Mufasa, meanwhile, Scar takes to the throne with the hyenas by his side. Rafiki returns to the baobab and symbolically smears the picture of Simba while the lionesses grieve.
"The breathtakingly staged Broadway adaptation of Disney's king of the cartoon jungle is an instant theater classic." Chris Willman - Entertainment Weekly
"Awe-inspiring! Broadway theater is alive again. [Julie] Taymor's imaginative ideas seem limitless. it's a gorgeous, gasp-inducing spectacle. Most important - against all odds - it has innocence. The show appeals to our primal, childlike excitement in the power of theater to make us see things afresh." Richard Zoglin – Time Magazine
"A jaw-dropping magnificent spectacle. The show and the playhouse are enchanting. The unprecedented production is worth every penny. If this is Disney's idea of a theme park, we are delighted to report that the theme is quality." Linda Winer – Newsday
"Julie Taymor's staging of Disney's The Lion King is a marvel, a theatrical achievement unrivaled in its beauty, brains and ingenuity. Leaping far beyond its celluloid inspiration, the stage version improves upon nearly every aspect of the hit 1994 animated film, from visual artistry and storytelling to Lebo M's score and the newly African-ized pop songs of Elton John and Tim Rice." Greg Evans – Variety
"Seen purely as a visual tapestry, there is simply nothing else like it. Suddenly, you're 4 years old again, and you've been taken to the circus for the first time. You can only marvel at the exotic procession of animals before you: the giraffes and the elephants and the hippopotamuses and all those birds in balletic flight. Such is the transporting magic wrought by the opening 10 minutes of The Lion King, [director Julie] Taymor has introduced a whole new vocabulary of images to the Broadway blockbuster." Ben Brantley – The New York Times