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Thursday Treasures

December 13, 2012

Celebrating 15 Years with The Lion King on Broadway by Allie C.

Only three years after appearing in movie theaters, The Lion King was adapted for the stage and first appeared on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater in 1997, becoming an instant success. Now 15 years later, the musical is still going strong with productions around the world, national tours in the US and UK, and is the winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best Musical, among many other awards. To help celebrate their 15th anniversary, an exhibit was set up just minutes away from the theater that shows why the show has been a great success. A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to see the show for the first time, as well as the exhibit.

The Lion King on Broadway

Since The Lion King takes place in Africa, many of the costumes, as well as the choreography, were designed with the African culture in mind, with the actors wearing traditional garments from a real character related to their own. My favorite thing about the masks worn by the actors who played Mufasa and Scar is that when they face the audience, the mask appears above their head so you can still see their facial expressions, however, when they turn to the side, the mask slides down and appears to cover their face.

Rafiki's costume is influenced by an African healer and would not be complete without the stick. The idea behind the costume was to start out as a human at the head and slowly transition to an ape like creature at the feet. I was a bit taken back by the idea that Rafiki was a woman in the stage adaptation, but some of her vocals were incredible, with most being in Swahili.

The Lion King on Broadway

Zazu's costume is very unique in the sense that it is an actor holding a puppet, rather than an actor in a costume (Timon is also a puppet but attached to the actor, whose bodies move together). Since Zazu can be considered as Mufasa's 'butler' the inspiration behind the actor's costume was an English Gentleman in suit.

The Lion King on Broadway

Aside from the costumes, there was extraordinary talent on stage and behind the scenes. Some of the actors had come from productions of The Lion King in other countries, while others are native to Africa. There were additional songs added in that were not in the movie, that I truly enjoyed, even an expansion to 'Be Prepared' with a rock/hip hop feel that featured dancing hyenas. Even with the additional musical numbers, the stage adaptation plays a great homage to the film. The creativity behind the sets and costumes, combined with the talented actors and great story make The Lion King on Broadway special enough to be the fifth longest running Broadway show in history. Congratulations on 15 years, and let's hop there's another 15 more!


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