Premier: November 13, 1997 Theater: New Amsterdam Theater Music by: Elton John Lyrics by: Tim Rice Book by: Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, adapted from the screenplay by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton Directed by: Julie Taymor Choreography by: Garth Fagan Produced by: Walt Disney Theatrical Productions
- "Circle of Life" "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" "Hakuna Matata" "Lion Sleeps Tonight" "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" "He Lives in You"
Before Disney changed Broadway, Broadway changed Disney. Beginning in the late 1980s, the studio produced a series of blockbuster animated musicals written by stage veterans and informed by Broadway musical storytelling. After the success of the stage version of “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney turned to the most successful animated feature ever made: THE LION KING. But unlike the fairly literal transformation of “Beauty and the Beast,” this time Disney approached the visionary avant-garde director and puppeteer Julie Taymor to reimagine the movie and soon gave the green light to what would become one of the most technically complicated and visually astonishing productions in Broadway history. The movie’s songs by Tim Rice and pop icon Elton John were supplemented by a South African sound created by Lebo M, and the whole feel and casting of the show was culturally diverse and inclusive of all races, ages, and tastes. In the animal kingdom of the African veldt, the young lion prince, Simba, avenges his father’s murder by his treacherous uncle, Scar, as he ventures out into the jungle, discovering new (and eccentric) friends, Timon and Pumbaa; true love, with Nala; and his own strength and destiny.
When the show opened in the fall of 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theater — Ziegfeld’s former showcase, now elegantly restored by Disney — it became a colossal hit of Ziegfeldian proportions, transporting both children and adults with its imaginative staging. Taymor became the first woman to win a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical, and “The Lion King” is still playing all over the world.