On July 8, 1997, Disney’s The Lion King debuted as a stage musical at Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre before bowing on Broadway. Now, the musical is Broadway’s third longest-running show in history and is the highest grossing Broadway production of all time, having grossed more than $1 billion. After 19 years and several international productions and tours The Lion King has come home to Minneapolis for 5 weeks.
Simba (B.J. Covington) can’t wait to grow up and be king. His uncle Scar (Patrick R. Brown), however, doesn’t like the fact his nephew has ruined his chance at becoming king. Which means he’ll stop at nothing to find a way to be king. Including killing his brother, Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) and making poor Simba believe his actions killed his father. Once Scar convinces Simba he can never show his face around Pride Rock again, Simba runs away and Scar takes what he believes is his rightful spot as king. While Simba (Aaron Nelson, as adult Simba) is growing up under guidance of his new found friends a lemur named Timon (Nick Cordileone) and a warthog named Pumba (Robbie Swift), back at Pride Rock Scar’s way of ruling has decimated the once fertile and gorgeous land. It takes childhood friend, Nala’s (Nia Holloway) arrival to help Simba understand he not only needs to return home, but that regardless of what has happened he can always return home.
Bringing a show to life on stage is hard. Even harder when the show was originally a beloved cartoon full of animals in the African Savanna. Somehow, director, costume designer and puppet designer Julie Taymor and her creative team managed to not only create a show which transitioned stunningly from screen to stage, but also a show which steps outside the box and offers audience members a truly unique and remarkable theatre experience. The puppets Julie Taymor and Michael Curry teamed up to create are truly something you need to experience first-hand. Elephants, giraffes, rhinos, antelopes, gazelles, cheetahs and many more come to live every night in the theatre right before your eyes.
Scenic Designer Richard Hudson created stunning sets which capture not only what people expect from having seen the movie version, but also what you would expect to see if you were actually in the African savanna. Breathtaking colors and textures of the set partnered with Julie Taymor’s exquisite costume designs is a visual delight.
As part of The Lion King’s return engagement, Hennepin Theatre Trust is offering their first ever sensory-friendly performance for individuals with sensory, social and learning disabilities on Saturday, July 30 at 2pm. Modeled after the successful program sponsored by the Theatre Development Fund at the Minskoff Theatre, home of The Lion King on Broadway, the Minneapolis sensory-friendly experience provides a supportive environment so everyone can enjoy a show at the theatre.
Disney’s The Lion King is currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through August 7. For more information on the show or to purchase tickets, visit their website.