The West End production of Disney’s The Lion King celebrates its 16th birthday today.
The multi award-winning musical opened at London’s Lyceum Theatre on 19th October 1999 and has since been seen by over twelve million people. It is the fourth longest-running musical currently playing in the West End, behind Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia!, and the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.
The Lion King is the powerful and moving story of Simba – the epic adventure of his journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.
Once the Lion Prince Simba is born, his evil uncle Scar is relegated to second in line to the throne. Scar plots to kill both Simba and his father, King Mufasa, before proclaiming himself King. Simba however, survives the plot. He is however, led to believe that his father died because of him and so he decides to flee the kingdom.
The stage musical is based on Disney’s 1994 animated film of the same name and made its world premiere on Broadway in 1997, following a short run at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Director Julie Taymor’s reimagined story features a book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi and Hans Zimmer’s original film score, along with Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Tim Rice and additional songs by Julie Taymor, Mark Mancina and Lebo M, who also produced the choral arrangements. It also has Choreography by Garth Fagan, Scenic Design by Richard Hudson, Lighting Design by Donald Holder, Mask and Puppet Co-Design by Michael Curry and Julie Taymor, Costume Design by Julie Taymor, Hair and Make-Up Design by Michael Ward, Sound Design by Steve Canyon Kennedy and Musical Supervision by Clement Ishmael. It is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions.
The musical features actors in animal costumes and incorporates the use of puppetry.
The Lion King won six Tony Awards on Broadway, including Best Musical, and the West End production went on to be nominated for eight Lawrence Oliver Awards, winning Best Theatre Choreographer and Best Costume Design. The musical is a global hit and has now been seen by over 75 million people across six continents, having played in such places as Hamburg, Madrid, Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, and many more. The first ever UK tour of the show was launched in 2012.
The West End production overtook Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera last year as the most successful musical of all time, grossing $6.2 million worldwide. In January 2015, Disney released licensed 30-minute and 70-minute school versions of The Lion King for primary and secondary schools.
The current West End cast stars Jonathan Andrew Hume as Simba. The principal line-up also features Ava Brennan as Nala, George Asprey as Scar, Shaun Escoffery as Mufasa, Brown Lindiwe Mkhize as Rafiki, Howard Gossington as Zazu, Richard Frame as Timon, Keith Bookman as Pumbaa, and Nadine Higgin, David Blake and Mark McGee as hyenas Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. The role of Young Simba is shared by Geoffrey Berrisford, Kai Kennan-Felix, Taylor Keenan-Felix and Amir Wilson. The role of Young Nala is shared by India Brown, Indie Gjesdal, Amma Ris, and Kira Spencer Brown.
The Lion King remains one of the best loved West End musicals ever as it enters its record-breaking 17th year in London. Happy 16th birthday to The Lion King! Here’s to many more years to come…
The Lion King
21 Wellington Street
London, WC2E 7RQ
Evenings: Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday, Saturday amd Sunday 2.30pm
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Age Restrictions: The Lion King is recommended for children aged 6 and over. Under 3s will not be admitted.