Everyone has seen or at least heard of the classic Disney animated movie, The Lion King. It was released in 1994 and is loved by viewers to this day.
And likewise, the Broadway, NYC adaptation of this film also became an award-winning success.
As a result, people flock from all over to witness The Lion King's beautiful and dramatic story come to life on the stage in front of them.
When one thinks of Broadway shows in New York, brilliant actors, powerful songs, fabulous costumes, innovative stage settings, and, of course, a lot of drama comes to mind.
The Broadway version of The Lion King offers that and a lot more! It is a breathtaking display that has viewers completely enamored, making it an eternally memorable experience.
Let's explore what one of the most famous Broadway shows of recent times, The Lion King, is all about.
What The Lion King New York Broadway Show Is About
Many people don't know that The Lion King was an adaptation of the Shakespearean play 'Hamlet.' The story starts by following the life of Mufasa, the king of the jungle, who lives at Pride Rock with his family.
He then has a son named Simba, who is destined to take the throne one day. And as the timeline of proceedings would dictate, this is where the drama begins!
The twist in the tale arrives when Scar, Mufasa's brother, creates a plan to kill the king and his son, successfully completing the first task.
The kingdom becomes chaotic, and Simba is forced to run away. He ends up meeting a warthog and meerkat duo who take him in and raise him as their own.
As the story proceeds, Simba meets Nala, a beloved childhood friend, who convinces him that he should head back to Pride Rock and reclaim the throne to restore his kingdom to its former glory.
The story evokes a lot of emotions and has become as important a part of the circuit as Jersey Boys!
Details About The Lion King Broadway, NYC Production
The Lion King Broadway show was a 'Disney Theatrical Production.' The original Disney movie has lyrics written by Tim Rice and music produced by Elton John, and a book was written by Irene Mecchi and Roger Allers.
The additional lyrics and music for the Broadway rendition have been made by Hans Zimmer, Julie Taymor, Mark Mancina, and Lebo M.
Julie Taymor is also the director, and she uses giant, hollow puppets and actors fitted in animal costumes to bring out the essence of the Jungle Kingdom. The show runs for two hours, 30 minutes, and includes one intermission.
Furthermore, Broadway's Lion King has won six Tony awards, including the 'Best Musical' and 'Best Director' titles. These achievements put The Lion King in the same league as shows like Mamma Mia!
This much-revered New York Broadway show was initially shown at the 'New Amsterdam Theater' and started showing at the Minskoff Theatre from 2006 to the present.
Over 100 million people globally have come to experience the majesty, thrill, and uniqueness of The Lion King musical.
Watching a musical at Broadway evokes a feeling like no other, and experiencing a show like this makes for a memorable night out for New York City tourists.
It has become a regular fixture on the circuit and is one of the longest-running Broadway shows in NYC, and has is the highest-grossing production in Broadway history.
The Minskoff Theatre
The Minskoff Theatre in Midtown Manhattan, 1515 Broadway, New York, has been home to The Lion King musical since 2006. It is located in a high-rise building called the One Astor Plaza, on the third floor.
This theatre has seating for up to 1621 people, and the architects who take the credit for designing this art-deco-styled structure were named Jacobs and Kahn.
It was named after building owner Sam Minskoff and his family as it opened its doors on the 13th of March, 1972. Since then, it has hosted several dance companies, concerts, and musicals.
However, the show has been suspended since March of 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic. But it is set to resume from the 14th of September, 2021.
The Lion King is currently the most sought-after ticket vacancy on the broadway strip alongside The Book of Mormon!
Characters In The Lion King
There are many characters with a lot of depth and fascinating storylines. And if you've seen the movie, you will know most of them.
Here are some of the main ones:
- Mufasa: The King of the Pride lands, Sarabi's husband and Simba's father
- Simba: he is the son of King Mufasa and next in line for the throne.
- Sarabi: The mother of Simba and wife of Mufasa
- Nala: a lioness - she becomes Simba's wife later on
- Scar: the main villain - he is Mufasa's brother who wants to dethrone him
- Rafiki: A mandrill- she acts as somewhat of a narrator in the musical
- Pumbaa: A warthog who ends up taking Simba in
- Timon: A meerkat who also takes Simba in and becomes his friend
- Ed: A hyena who doesn't speak and is a minion of Scar
- Shenzi: A minion of scar, a female hyena
- Banzai: Another minion of Scar, a male hyena
There are also actors cast to portray a selection of African animals, such as giraffes and elephants. And quite interestingly, actors were also hired to play plants in the musical.
The realism they tried to depict in the performance is unrivaled, and the production quality can be likened to Wicked.
Difference Between The Film And The Musical
It is natural for people to wonder whether it is worth watching the musical if it has the same storyline, songs, and characters as the film.
However, The Lion King is one of the best Broadway Shows in NYC because of how the film has been adapted to the stage. This makes it a must-watch, especially for those who have seen the movie!
Of course, The Lion King film depicted animated animals in the jungle kingdom, which is impossible to do on stage.
To portray the same realism, the actors on Broadway wear large headpieces, and the director has taken creative liberty, making costumes symbolizing different animals; for example, stilts were worn by actors who were playing giraffes.
Furthermore, the mechanical headpieces worn by the primary characters like Scar and Mufasa could be raised and lowered at will, making it look like two lions are lunging at each other.
Secondary characters such as Pumbaa, Timon, Zazu, and the hyenas, were portrayed by actors wearing life-size costumes or puppets.
The director described Timon as the most challenging role to adopt because of how the heads and arms of the puppets move, straining the actor's neck, back, and arms.
The accurate depiction of betrayal and remorse in The Lion King has rarely ever been repeated, apart from in Chicago – albeit in a more whimsical way.
Storyline Changes: Warning! Spoilers Ahead
As for the storyline itself, there have been several additions and changes to it compared to the film.
Rafiki, one of the essential characters, was changed to be played by a female, as director Taymor believed that there wasn't a solid leading female character in the original film.
Additionally, the show adds new scenes to the story; this includes a conversation between Zazu and Mufasa about how he parents Simba.
Another additional scene involves Timon nearly drowning and Simba feeling helpless for not being able to save him.
Perhaps the most significant addition to the show is a narrative involving Nala. Read on with caution, as this may be a potential spoiler for you!
This arc involves Nala leaving the Pride Lands. It happens when Scar tries to convince Nala to be his mate within the scene called "The Madness of King Scar."
Nala refuses his advances and tells everyone how she wants to leave the Pride Lands to find help. The lionesses bless Rafiki and her during a new song called 'Shadowland.'
Why The Lion King Is One Of The Best Broadway Shows In NYC
If you are a fan of fun musicals, The Lion King is an excellent suggestion. It is impressive how the entire cast and backstage crew have seamlessly performed a classic tale in such a modern way.
In many ways, it also surpasses the likes of The Book of Mormon and The Phantom Of The Opera because it delves into a completely different world, one that is not ruled by humans but experiences the same emotions as we do.
If you find yourself interested in the world of theatre, try taking private lessons from experienced Broadway producers and crew members.
Sign up to Superprof and search for production heads, set designers, or even scriptwriters in your area who could provide you classes based on Broadway theatre production!