The Lion King

Music & Lyrics: Elton John & Tim Rice

Additional Music & Lyrics: Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor & Hans Zimmer

Book: Roger Allers & Irene Mecchi

Based on Disney's most successful animated feature to date, The Lion King tells the story of Simba, a lion cub whose quest to take his rightful place as king of the beasts takes him on a journey of self discovery and redemption. The mastermind behind the Broadway production was Julie Taymor, a director known primarily for her work in the avant-garde theatre. She not only directed the show, but also designed the costumes, collaborated with with Michael Curry on the design of the masks and puppets, and contributed additional music and lyrics to the original score by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Taymor's first challenge was to determine how she should approach a story that is all about animals, but is in essence a human story. She eventually decided to accentuate this duality between the human and the animal by combining masks and puppetry with live actors. She created giant masks that would represent characters such as Scar and Mufasa, but left the human face revealed below the mask so that the actors' facial expressions would not be lost.

Taymor's next hurdle was finding a way to convey the atmosphere of The Lion King in a live theatre. Determined not to tone down the scale of the film, she wanted to bring to the stage such vast and sweeping elements as the rolling African Savannah and the famous wildebeest stampede in which Mufasa is killed by his brother Scar. She succeeded in reproducing these grand effects through the use of ingenious impressionistic staging techniques. For the wildebeest scene, she created a false perspective of great distance by placing five earth-colored portals one behind the other. She then used a canvas scroll and a series of large rollers to create the illusion of thousands of racing animals. The effect in the theatre is electrifying as thousands of wildebeests seem to be rushing straight at Simba--and at the audience!

The animated film on which the musical is based included five songs by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice including such hits as "The Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and "Hakuna Matata." In addition, the duo wrote three new songs for the musical: Zazu's "The Morning Report," the hyenas' "Chow Down," and "The Madness of King Scar" in which the musical style mutates along with the escalating schizophrenia of Scar. However, the stage version still needed more songs to fully explore Simba's journey, so the creative team turned to The Rythm of the Pride Lands, a recording inspired by the film featuring songs by South African songwriter Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Hans Zimmer.

The Lion King premiered at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN on July 31, 1997 and received rave reviews for its dazzling special effects and inspired staging. After an eight week run, it moved to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway. The show went on to win numerous awards including a Tony Award and a New York Drama Critics Award for "Best Musical," and a Grammy Award for "Best Show Album." Taymor was rewarded for her efforts with a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama League Award--all for "Best Director of a Musical." She also received a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for "Best Costume Design" and a Drama Desk Award for "Best Puppet Design."

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