West End classics: The Lion King

Jessie Thompson
Deen van Meer

Our guide to the much-loved shows of the West End that continue to run and run. This week we’re feeling the love for animal kingdom classic The Lion King

What’s it about?

The Disney film on which the show is based is one of the most beloved of all time, but if you haven’t seen the childhood classic which featured animated singing warthogs, let us explain. The Lion King is the story of a young cub called Simba, who, after the death of his father, has to come to terms with the responsibilities of adulthood and his destiny as king. It’s a bit like Hamlet, but with a happier ending.

How was it made?

The film was adapted for the stage after the 1994 film release, and premiered on Broadway in 1997. The show’s director Julie Taymor created a number of puppets and masks for the show in order to tell the story, and new songs were added to the soundtrack. Taymor used a number of styles for the puppets, from hand-held to shadow puppets, with one rule: the performer should never be hidden by the device, as she wanted to show the humanity of the characters and expose what each performer was technically capable of.

South African composer Lebo M created African rhythms and chorales, and Elton John and Tim Rice added three new songs to the award-winning score they made for the film.

How long has it been running for?

The show opened at the Lyceum Theatre in 1999, where it is still running in its 18th year to this day. Over 85 million people around the world have seen it, and it has been performed on every continent except Antarctica.

Which musical numbers will I know?

The soundtrack is full of classics, from the epic Circle of Life, to the joyful I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, and the soaring ballad Can You Feel the Love Tonight.

Where can I see it?

It’s at the Lyceum Theatre, currently booking through to October 1, 2017

Buy tickets for The Lion King with Evening Standard Tickets

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