The adaption of The Lion King into a Broadway production was in many ways a no-brainer. The movie had made quite a splash with its 1994 release, and the waves rippled into pretty much every viable aspect of the Walt Disney Company. The show, however is really its own beast (and yes that pun would have worked better elsewhere).
The Lion King and Musical Storytelling
I saw The Lion King in 2001, it was my first time in New York City, and even 4 years after it had opened, the show was still the one show you needed to take your kids to see. In truth, the show is going strong almost 20 years later. It speaks both to the power of The Lion King as a recognizable Disney movie, and to the quality of the production.
To me the power of music is the emotional response it can give listeners from the sound alone. The actual orchestrations help evoke the themes of the show, including the role family plays in life, and dealing with loss. The lyrics simply echo what the sound is already conveying.
The use of puppetry and costumes in The Lion King is also a feat in itself. The puppets and costumes add to the vibe of the show. Rather then hide the performers they are used in tandem. It acknowledges that this is a story being told on stage, rather than hide it as a way of “keeping the magic real.”
An International Pride
The Lion King has gained admiration from millions outside the US thanks to the many productions staged around the world. One of the newest versions is actually taking place at Shanghai Disneyland at the Walt Disney Grand Theater. It’s the first Mandarin-language production, and is a great way to introduce Disney theater to mainland China.
Looking back, and looking ahead, The Lion King truly stands out for its broad appeal. Of all the great Disney animated films, which there are many, The Lion King is one of the ones that transcends being just a fantastic movie, and becomes a phenomenon. I personally have it in a small list of movies which I find shocking when someone living in America hasn’t seen it, along with Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz.
Photos by Joan Marcus.
Have you seen The Lion King musical on Broadway or in one the touring productions? How did it compare to Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Let us know in the comments section below.
Zack Kaplan is neither the king of pride rock, nor the prince of self-esteem island, but he does like Disney. He likes talking about it on his Twitter @SteelDiver, along with guessing what Epcot attraction will be Frozen-ized next (watch out Mission Space).