November 6, 2009 in News

The furry denizens of Pride Rock return to Spokane

Disney’s “The Lion King” arrives Wednesday for a 31-performance run
By The Spokesman-Review
Joan Marcus Disney photo

The character Rafiki performs the opening number, “The Circle of Life,” in the touring production of “The Lion King.” Disney
(Full-size photo)

Q. How did this show originate?

A. It began as a hit Disney animated movie in 1994. Disney hired avant-garde director- choreographer Julie Taymor to adapt it as a Broadway musical in 1997.

Q. What’s it about?

A. The young lion cub Simba is born heir to the Lion King throne. Simba endures many adventures, challenges and tragedies before ascending to his rightful place on the throne of his late father, Mustafa.

Q. How are all of these animal characters represented on stage?

A. Some are played by actors wearing giant African masks atop their heads. Others are enormous Bunraku puppets, operated by puppeteers who are visible to the audience. Others are represented through the ancient technique of shadow puppetry.

Q. How did critics react to Taymor’s unusual staging?

A. They called it refreshing, innovative and spectacular. It went on to win six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Q. How did audiences react?

A. They flocked to it – and continue to do so. The show is still on Broadway, where it will celebrate its 12th anniversary next week. It also has a resident company in Las Vegas and several companies in Europe and Asia.

Q. What’s the show’s signature number?

A. “The Circle of Life,” a stirring song in which a menagerie of giraffes, elephants and hippos parades through the audience on the way to Pride Rock. Don’t show up late – this is the opening number.

Q. Who wrote the music?

A. Elton John and Tim Rice wrote most of the score, with some additional music by other composers.

Q. How big is this production, from a logistics standpoint?

A. The show travels in 23 semi-trucks, several of which are already in Spokane setting up the complicated sets and lights.

Q. Will THIS visit now become the biggest theatrical event in Spokane’s history?

A. No, it is for 31 performances, as opposed to 46 in 2005. It can’t possibly match the record 117,000 tickets sold then. Yet it should sell between 70,000 and 80,000 tickets – huge by most standards.

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