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Just over 20 years ago, Disney once again drew youngsters as well as the young at heart to the big screen. In a brilliant flash of rich color and soul-touching lyrics, combined with the vocal talents of Hollywood's diverse elite and heart-pounding turns of event, the studio's unrivaled talent magically transformed the basic story line of Shakespeare's Hamlet into a dynamic tale of good versus evil unfolding across the African savanna. All the while, something bigger, bolder, and even more breathtaking was taking shape behind the scenes.
Three years after the release of the 32nd animated feature film to bear the Disney name, with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" still echoing sweetly in the minds of people across the globe, its beloved cartoon cast took on a more human form. The Lion King on Broadway was born. As Simba, his devoted entourage, and all those others committed to either taking over or reclaiming the Pride Lands transcended the cartoon realm, the magic of animation somehow managed to remain intact.
Where the Plot Takes You
Born to King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi of the Pride Lands, Simba comes into the world bearing a level of responsibility few adults could comprehend. As he and his young friend Nala learn by example in true lion cub form and explore everything the light touches, Uncle Scar begins to explore the darker side of his inner self. Jealous of his older brother's claim to the throne, Scar develops a plan to eliminate the rest of his royal bloodline and secure his own future.
Following a series of carefully planned and orchestrated events, Scar's devious scheme doesn't entirely pan out the way he'd hoped. In a last-ditch effort, he seizes the opportunity to exploit the innocence and trust of his grief-stricken nephew, ultimately convincing him he's to blame for the untimely loss of his father. Overcome by the burden of this undue guilt, Simba leaves behind the only life he's ever known to start afresh.
During his journey to a new existence, Simba makes some strange but savvy friends. Along the way, his long-lost childhood confidant unexpectedly drifts back into his life. As friendship is rekindled and sparks of something deeper begin to fly, he learns about the plight of his family and loved ones back home at the hands of his unsavory uncle. The Pride Lands' rightful king sets out to undo the wrongs of Scar with friends in tow, guided by wisdom from the other side.
Wild Wonders of the Stage
Though Broadway is famous for bringing stories to life, The Lion King NYC takes this concept to unprecedented levels. Critics and show-goers alike have deemed the musical's stage makeup alone a work of art in its own right. Costumes range from vivid African garb and animal prints to beastly headdresses and ceremonial attire. Those on stage manage to flawlessly meld humanity with the animal kingdom through song, spoken word, and choreography among an unimaginable array of additional elements.
Live cast members are joined onstage by well over 200 puppets, including giraffes towering 18 feet into the air, made from a wide variety of materials. Some rely on design and lighting techniques to create shadowy representations of animals of the savanna whereas others are manipulated in an elegantly advanced marionette-style manner. Certain larger-than-life members of the non-living cast are manned internally. Also featured in the show are six distinctive African languages, including Congolese, Sotho, Swahili, Tswana, Xhosa and Zulu.
The Lion King on Broadway's 1997 launch included the grace and prowess of such dancers as Camille M. Brown, Lana Gordon, Karine Plantadit-Bageot, Timothy Hunter and Iresol Cardona. Singers Eugene Barry-Hill, Gina Breedlove, Lindiwe Hlengwa, Sheila Gibbs and Vanessa A. Jones among others shared their vocal talents from the stage. Simba was portrayed by the multi-faceted Jason Raize while singer, songwriter, and actress Heather Headley played the part of Nala. Kevin Bailey encompassed the role of Scar. These are only a few of the uncommonly talented names on the show's original playbill.
History in the Making
In the years since The Lion King on Broadway initially graced the stage, the show has been bestowed more than 70 major theatre accolades, not the least of which were six Tony Awards touting its choreography, scenic lighting and costume design, as well as the production's direction. Having spanned 24 productions across the globe, it's the third longest running show in Broadway's timeline. Revenue topped the $6.2 billion dollar mark as of 2014, and reports indicate New York's Minskoff Theatre alone brings in $1 million each week on this one highly-sought-after show.
Since making its way from the big screen and all the home-bound spin-offs to The Great White Way, the Lion King on Broadway has captured the hearts and imaginations of more than 85 million people. If you want to become part of this movement but can't make it to the famed Broadway district or prefer smaller venues, you certainly have your fair share of Off-Broadway renditions from which to choose. Either way, The Lion King NYC has been named the must-see event capable of eliciting awe and bringing generations full circle.