The Lion King is a Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical based on the 1994 animated film of the same name with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, along with the musical score composed by Hans Zimmer with choral arrangements by Lebo M. Directed by Julie Taymor, the musical features actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets.
The musical debuted on July 8, 1997, in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Orpheum Theatre, and was an instant success before premiering on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997 in previews with the official opening on November 13, 1997. On June 13, 2006, the Broadway production moved to the Minskoff Theatre to make way for the Walt Disney's Mary Poppins, where it is still running. The Lion King is now Broadway's fourth longest-running show in history at this time. The production has had a total of 33 previews and 7027 as of September 28, 2014. The musical has made a total of $1,094,936,075, making it the highest grossing Broadway musical in history.
The show debuted in the West End's Lyceum Theatre on October 19, 1999, and is still running. The cast of the West End production were invited to perform at the Royal Variety Performance 2008 at the London Palladium on December 11, 2010 in the presence of senior members of the British Royal Family.
As the sun rises, Rafiki the baboon calls the animals to Pride Rock with two antelopes. She greets King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi before presenting their cub to the gathered animals who bow and cheer before their future king ("Circle of Life"). Meanwhile, elsewhere, Mufasa's very angry, wicked and evil brother, Scar, laments on his lost chance at becoming king of the Pride Lands.
Time passes and Simba grows into a lively young cub ("Grasslands Chant"). Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands from the top of Pride Rock and explains that everything exists in a delicate balance known as the Circle of Life. Mufasa warns Simba not to stray beyond the boundaries of the Pride Lands, pointing out a shadowy area in the distance.
Zazu, a hornbill who acts as Mufasa's adviser, arrives and delivers his daily report on the state of affairs in the King's domain, ("The Morning Report")* while Simba takes this opportunity to practice his pouncing. Zazu reports that hyenas have been sighted in the Pride Lands and Mufasa leaves to deal with them. Simba goes to see his uncle Scar. The scheming lion piques the cub's curiosity by mentioning the Elephant Graveyard, a place where Simba is forbidden to go.
The lionesses go out hunting ("The Lioness Hunt"), and Simba arrives and asks his best friend, a lioness cub named Nala, to come with him to the elephant graveyard, although he does not mention their intended location to his mother - he lies that they intend to go to the waterhole. Sarafina (Nala's mother) and Sarabi allow the cubs to go when Zazu accompanies them. Simba and Nala formulate a plan and manage to lose Zazu, while Simba brags about his future position ("I Just Can't Wait to be King").
The cubs journey to the graveyard and begin to explore until Zazu stops them. They are about to leave when they are confronted by Banzai, Shenzi and Ed, three wicked hyenas. The Hyenas intend to have all three of the unfortunates for lunch, and gloat over them eagerly ("Chow Down").
Mufasa arrives none to soon to rescue the cubs and frightens off the hyenas.
Mufasa is upset and angry that Simba disobeyed him. Simba says that he was only trying to be brave like his father. Mufasa explains that he is only brave when he has to be, and that bravery does not mean recklessly seeking out danger. Simba asks whether he and his father will always be together, causing Mufasa to look up to the night sky and tell Simba about the Great Kings of the Past and how they guide and watch over everything ("They Live in You"). Mufasa tells Simba that he will always be there for him.
Back at the Elephant Graveyard, Scar tells the hyenas that he will soon be king if the hyenas assist him, and that they will never be hungry again if they agree ("Be Prepared"). At Pride Rock, Zazu apologizes to Mufasa for Simba's bad behavior. Mufasa accepts the apology but admits that he is worried about Simba. Zazu tells Mufasa that Simba resembles the King of the Pride Lands when he was a cub.
Later, Scar takes Simba to a gorge and tells him to wait there. Scar leaves and signals the hyenas, who start a wildebeest stampede down into the gorge ("Stampede"). Scar tells Mufasa that Simba is trapped in the gorge, and Mufasa races to his son's aid. Mufasa leaps into the stampede and manages to save his son, but as he climbs a cliff, Scar betrays him and throws him from the cliff, killing him. Scar convinces Simba that his father's death was his fault, as Mufasa died trying to save him, and that he should flee the Pride Lands and never return.
As Simba runs, Scar orders the hyenas to kill Simba. Back at Pride Rock, the lionesses and Rafiki mourn the loss of Mufasa and Simba ("Rafiki Mourns"). Scar climbs to the promontory of Pride Rock, claims the throne for himself, and allows the hyenas into the Pride Lands as his executive staff ("Be Prepared (Reprise)"). Rafiki returns to her tree and smears the drawing of Simba, while Sarabi and Nala mourn for the ones whom they have loved and lost forever.
Out in the desert, Simba collapses from heat exhaustion. Vultures begin to circle, but are scared away by Timon, a meerkat, and Pumbaa, a warthog. The duo take the cub back to their jungle home and show him their relaxed way of life ("Hakuna Matata").
They tell Simba that they are outcasts as well and later introduce him to their diet of bugs and insects called grubs. Simba is captivated by the carefree existence, and stays. Simba stays in the jungle with his new friends for a long time- just before the end of Act I, we see the cub transform into an adult lion. Simba sings his solo and Timon and Pumbaa join in while the curtain closes for 15 minute intermission.
The chorus and Lebo M, dressed in colorful clothes with ornate bird puppets and kites, begin the act ("One by One"). As the song ends, however, the beautiful birds are replaced by vultures and gazelle skeletons. (In some cities, such as in Pittsburgh, some of the Ensemble would come out, and use the birds on flags, to twirl over the audience.) A drought has hit the Pride Lands under Scar's tyrannical rule.
Zazu, now a prisoner of Scar, listens to the king's woes. Zazu attempts to comfort the new king by singing "It's a Small World". (Changed to "Let it Go" from Frozen in recent productions.) First, Scar has delusions of Mufasa's ghost haunting in every shadow. Then, he laments that he is not loved and arrives on the idea of finding a queen and having cubs so badly. Nala arrives to inform Scar that there is no food and no water, just as the hyenas reported the same thing a few minutes ago; Scar attempts to flirt with her, but Nala escapes ("The Madness of King Scar").
Utterly frustrated and upset by the current events, Nala decides to leave the Pride Lands and find help, vowing that she will never forget her pride. The lionesses and Rafiki offer a blessing ("Shadowland"). Back in the jungle, Simba leads Timon and Pumbaa to find a resting place while they sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Timon and Pumbaa want to sleep, but the restless Simba is unable to sleep.
Annoyed by Timon and Pumbaa, Simba disappears into the night. Timon and Pumbaa lose their courage and follow Simba through the dark jungle. Simba leaps across a fast-moving river and challenges Timon to do the same. Timon falls into the water and is swept downstream by the current until he reaches a waterfall, where he grabs onto a branch.
Simba wants to save Timon but is sent into a flashback of Mufasa's death. Timon falls from the branch and Simba snaps out of the flashback, rescuing his friend. Simba is ashamed that Timon nearly died because of his recklessness.
That night the three friends look up at the stars, wondering what they are. Simba recalls Mufasa's words regarding the great kings of the past, but Timon and Pumbaa dismiss it and laugh at the notion. Simba leaves, looking up at the sky and bitterly remembering his father's promise that he would always be there for Simba ("Endless Night"). At Rafiki's Tree, Rafiki hears Simba's endless nightmare on the wind and comes to the joyous conclusion that Simba is alive. She draws a mane onto the drawing of Simba on her tree and she says, "It Is Time."
In the jungle, Pumbaa is being hunted and chased by a lioness. Simba confronts the lioness and saves his friend. The lioness flips Simba, causing Simba to recognize that the lioness is his childhood friend, Nala. Nala is amazed to find Simba alive, knowing that he is the rightful king. Timon and Pumbaa are confused by this, and Simba tells the two to leave so that he and Nala can be alone. Timon realizes what is happening and laments that he and Pumbaa's Hakuna Matata lifestyle has come to an end ("Can You Feel the Love Tonight"). Nala tells Simba about the state of the devastated Pride Lands, trying to encourage him to return and take his rightful place as king. Simba is still guilty about his father's death and leaves.
On his own, Simba meets Rafiki, who explains that his father is still alive ("He Lives In You (Reprise)"). As Simba looks toward the sky, his father appears as a heavenly vision. Mufasa reminds Simba that he is the rightful king and must return to the Pride Lands. Simba is persuaded and heads for Pride Rock.
Meanwhile, Nala wakes Timon and Pumbaa to ask where Simba is. Rafiki appears on the vine and tells them that Simba has returned to the Pride Lands to take his rightful place as king.
Simba returns to Pride Rock with Nala, Timon and Pumbaa, where he witnesses the ruin that his home has fallen into. Timon and Pumbaa lure some hyenas out of their path by providing a diversion. Timon dresses in drag and does the Charleston while Pumbaa plays as the stuffed pig. Simba tells Nala to go find his mother while he goes look for Scar.
Scar calls for Sarabi and demands to know why the lionesses are not hunting. Sarabi tells him that there is no food or water, the heards have moved on and that they need is to leave Pride Rock to survive. Scar refuses and when Sarabi snaps at him about not being half the king Mufasa was, Scar strikes his sister-in-law, saying that he was ten times the king Mufasa was. At this, an enraged Simba leaps down, startling Scar, who believes his nephew to be dead. Scar forces a confession of murder from Simba and attacks him, forcing him over the edge of Pride Rock. Believing that he has won, Scar whispers to Simba that he was the one who killed Mufasa. Simba, infuriated, leaps up and grabs Scar by the throat, causing Scar to reveal the truth. A fierce battle rages between the lionesses, Timon, Pumbaa, Nala, Zazu, Rafiki and the hyenas ("Simba Confronts Scar").
Simba corners Scar on the top of Pride Rock, where Scar begs for his life and blames everything on the hyenas. In a repetition of Scar's words to cub Simba, Simba tells Scar to run away and never return. Scar, with the thought of Simba killing him, appears to follow this request, but turns quickly and attacks Simba again. Simba is able to block the attack, making Scar trip and fall over the cliff where the hyenas are waiting below. They surround their former leader and kill him.
The battle having finally come to an end, Simba's friends come forward and acknowledge Simba as the new and rightful king. Rafiki arrives and places the king's mantle on Simba. Simba climbs to the top of Pride Rock, hears Mufasa's voice saying "Remember!" and roars throughout the whole kingdom. The herds of animals gather at the call of their new king Simba and celebrate ("King of Pride Rock"). Rafiki, Nala and Simba ascend Pride Rock where Rafiki lifts Simba and Nala's newborn cub high into the air, thus continuing the Circle of Life and ushering in a new golden age at the end of Act 2 with the Curtain Call. ("Circle of Life (Reprise)").
- *Removed from the production in 2010
|Song||Written by||Performed by||From Movie?|
|Circle of Life||Elton John and Tim Rice||Rafiki and Ensemble||yes|
|Grasslands Chant||Lebo M||Lebo M and his South African Choir||no|
|The Morning Report||Elton John and Tim Rice||Zazu, Simba and Mufasa||yes (special edition)|
|The Lioness Hunt||Unknown||Ensemble||no|
|I Just Can't Wait to Be King||Elton John and Tim Rice||Simba, Nala, Zazu and Ensemble||yes|
|Chow Down||Elton John and Tim Rice||Shenzi, Banzai and Ed||no|
|They Live in You||Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebo M||Mufasa and Ensemble||no|
|Be Prepared||Elton John and Tim Rice||Scar, Shenzi, Banzai, Ed and Ensemble||yes|
|The Stampede/Rafiki Mourns||Elton John and Tim Rice||Ensemble, Rafiki and Ensemble||yes|
|Hakuna Matata||Elton John and Tim Rice||Timon, Pumbaa, Simba and Ensemble||yes|
|Song||Written by||Performed by||From Movie?|
|One by One||Lebo M||Ensemble||yes (animated short)|
|The Madness of King Scar||Elton John and Tim Rice||Scar, Zazu, Banzai, Shenzi, Ed and Nala||yes (in a deleted scene)|
|Shadowland||Hans Zimmer, Lebo M, and Mark Mancina||Nala, Rafiki and Ensemble||no|
|Endless Night||Julie Taymor, Lebo M, Hans Zimmer and Jay Rifkin||Simba and Ensemble||no|
|Can You Feel the Love Tonight||Elton John and Tim Rice||Timon, Pumbaa, Simba, Nala and Ensemble||yes|
|He Lives In You (Reprise)||Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebo M||Rafiki, Simba and Ensemble||no/no|
|King of Pride Rock||Hans Zimmer and Lebo M||Ensemble||yes|
|Circle of Life (Reprise)||Elton John and Tim Rice||Ensemble||yes|
|"Circle of Life"||1||"Circle of Life"|
|"Mouse Music/Scar US"||1||"Didn't Your Mother Tell You Not to Play With Your Food"|
|"Pridelands"||1||"We Are All Connected"|
|"Rafiki Paints Simba"||1||"We Are All Connected"|
|"The Morning Report"||1||"The Morning Report"|
|"Scar's Cave"||1||"Hyenas in the Pride Lands"|
|"I Just Can't Wait to be King"||1||"I Just Can't Wait to Be King"|
|"Elephant Graveyard"||1||"Elephant Graveyard"|
|"Before 'They Live in You'"||1||"I Was Just Trying to Be Brave"|
|"They Live in You"||1||None|
|"Back to Graveyard"||1||None|
|"Be Prepared"||1||"Be Prepared"|
|"Scar and Simba"||1||"Simba, It's to Die For"|
|"Stampede - Part 1"||1||"Stampede"|
|"Stampede - Part 2"||1||"Mufasa Dies"|
|"Bowling for Buzzards"||1||"If You Ever Come Back We'll Kill You"|
|"Hakuna Matata"||1||"Hakuna Matata"|
|"One by One"||2||None|
|"Bleak Clusters"||2||"We Gotta Bone to Pick With You"|
|"The Madness of King Scar"||2||None|
|"Under the Stars"||2||"Kings of the Past"|
|"Endless Night Tag"||2||None|
|"Nala Chases Pumbaa"||2||"Nala, Is It Really You?"|
|"Nala/Simba Reunion"||2||"Nala, Is It Really You?"|
|"Can You Feel the Love Tonight"||2||"Can You Feel the Love Tonight"|
|"Pool Reveal"||2||"Remember Who You Are"|
|"He Lives In You"||2||None|
|"He Lives In You Playoff"||2||None|
|"Transition to Final Score"||2||"This Is My Home"|
|"Finale - Part 1"||2||"The Rightful King"|
|"Finale - Part 2"||2||"The Rightful King"|
The musical incorporates several changes and additions to the storyline as compared to the film. The mandrill Rafiki's gender was changed to a female role, as Taymor believed there was generally no leading female character in the film. Rafiki was portrayed by Tsidii Le Loka in the original Broadway musical, and by Josette Bushell-Mingo in the original London production.
Several new scenes are present, including a conversation between Mufasa and Zazu about whether Mufasa is raising Simba correctly, and a perilous scene where Timon finds himself nearly drowning in a waterfall while Simba feels powerless to help him. A major narrative addition is the depiction of Nala's departure in the scene "The Madness of King Scar", where the mentally deteriorating villain tries to make Nala his mate. Nala refuses, and later announces her intention to depart the Pride Lands and find help. She receives the blessings of the lionesses and Rafiki during the new song "Shadowland."
Like its predecessor, the Beauty and the Beast musical, the show adds more songs to its stage production including "Morning Report" sung by Zazu the hornbill (a song which was later added to the film for the Platinum Edition DVD release). "Shadowland", originally featured on the CD Rhythm of the Pride Lands with Swahili lyrics as "Lea Halelela", was adapted for the musical with new English lyrics. It is sung by Nala, the lionesses, and Rafiki. "One by One", also from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands CD, was adapted as the rousing African-styled Entre Act sung by the chorus at the opening of the second act.
Many of the animals portrayed in the production are actors in costume using extra tools to move their costumes. For example, the giraffes are portrayed by actors carefully walking on stilts. For principal characters such as Mufasa and Scar, the costumes feature mechanical headpieces that can be raised and lowered to foster the illusion of a cat "lunging" at another. Other characters, such as the hyenas, Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa are portrayed by actors in life-sized puppets or costumes. The Timon character is described by Taymor as one of the hardest roles to master, as the movement of the puppet's head and arms puts a strain on the actor's arms, back and neck.
Composer Lebo M led the original Broadway chorus. The chorus members are usually visible in the production, rather than being hidden in the shadows as with some other musical shows.
A new section of the production, the Lioness Hunt, features a particularly complicated dance sequence for the actresses, and the dance is made even more difficult by the large headpieces worn during the scene.
During the show's run in China, Chinese elements were included in the musical. One of the songs was adapted to a well-known Chinese pop song, "Laoshu ai dami" or "Mice Love Rice". The cast even cracked jokes and attempted conversations with the audience in Chinese.
Original broadway cast
Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Lion King Original Broadway Cast Recording is a cast recording soundtrack released in 1997 by The Walt Disney Company, which features a recording of the songs heard in the stage musical sung by the original cast members. Some of the tracks were composed by South African composer Lebo M as they were inspired by the tracks from Rhythm of the Pride Lands CD, which focused primarily on the African influences of the film's original music, with most songs being sung either partially or entirely in various African languages, such as Swahili. Some songs (such as "Rafiki Mourns") were partly written and sung by African Singer Tsidii le Loka.
- Circle of Life
- Grasslands Chant
- The Morning Report
- The Lioness Hunt
- I Just Can't Wait to be King
- Chow Down
- They Live in You
- Be Prepared
- Rafiki Mourns
- Hakuna Matata
- One by One
- The Madness of King Scar
- Endless Night
- The Lion Sleeps Tonight
- Can You Feel the Love Tonight
- He Lives In You (Reprise)
- Simba Confronts Scar
- King of Pride Rock/Circle of Life (Reprise)
Note: The songs "Grasslands Chant", "The Morning Report", "The Lioness Hunt", "Chow Down", "They Live in You", "Rafiki Mourns", "One by One" (melody is heard in The Lion King), "The Madness of King Scar", "Shadowland" (melody is heard in The Lion King), "Endless Night", and "Simba Confronts Scar" are the new songs and instrumental music heard in the stage musical.
The Lion King was nominated for the following Tony Awards in 1998.
|Best Musical||Yes||Disney Theatrical Productions|
|Best Scenic Design of a Musical||Yes||Richard Hudson|
|Best Costume Design of a Musical||Yes||Julie Taymor|
|Best Lighting Design of a Musical||Yes||Donald Holder|
|Best Choreography||Yes||Garth Fagan|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Yes||Julie Taymor|
|Best Book of a Musical||No||Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi|
|Best Original Score||No||Elton John (music), Tim Rice (lyrics), Hans Zimmer (music), Lebo M (music & lyrics), Mark Mancina (music & lyrics), Jay Rifkin (music & lyrics), Julie Taymor (lyrics)|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||No||Samuel E. Wright|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||No||Tsidii Le Loka|
|Best Orchestrations||No||Robert Elhai, David Metzger, Bruce Fowler|
1998 Drama Desk Awards
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Musical - Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (nominees)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Max Casella, Geoff Hoyle (nominees)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Tsidii Le Loka (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography - Garth Fagan (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical - Julie Taymor (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations - Robert Elhai, David Metzger, and Bruce Fowler (nominees)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Musical - Scenic Design by Richard Hudson (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design - Costume Design by Julie Taymor (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design - Lighting Design by Donald Holder (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Sound Design - Sound Design by Tony Meola (WINNER)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Puppet Design - Puppet Design by Julie Taymor, Michael Curry (WINNER)
1998 Theatre World Award
- Max Casella (WINNER)
- On April 1, 2018, Disney On Broadway's Twitter page released a spoof "behind the scenes" video announcing that The Lion King would be touring Antarctica in 2019.
- Taymor, Julie, The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway, (Disney Editions, 1998)
- Taymor, Julie, The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway, (Disney Editions, 1998)