Today in History (1997): ‘The Lion King’ Musical Premieres on Broadway


Broadway’s fifth longest-running show made its debut on this day 16 years ago!

It’s “The Lion King” musical’s Sweet 16 today. Poster via The Disney Wiki

“The Lion King” was based on the well-loved Disney animated film of the same name, which was released in 1994. Just three months before its Broadway premiere, this two-act musical was first staged at the Orpheum Theater in Minnesota. Previews were held at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theater beginning October 15 before officially opening on November 13, 1997.

The music of “The Lion King” was composed by Elton John with lyrics by Tim Rice, and was directed by Julie Taymor. It was produced by the Disney Theatrical Productions Limited, or Disney on Broadway, which has also brought on stage some of its films such as “Mary Poppins,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Tarzan.”

Photos via

The original Broadway cast for “The Lion King” was topbilled by Jason Raize as Simba, John Vickery as Scar, and Samuel E. Wright as Mufasa. A list of the current cast members can be found here. “The Lion King” features a simple stage setup, although the music and the beautiful, elaborate costumes more than make up for it.

Tshidi Manye as Rafiki in the current production of “The Lion King.” Photo via

The following year saw “The Lion King” reaping various awards from the Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical – Tsidii Le Loka (Rafiki), Director, Choreography, Set Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, Sound Design, Puppet Design), the Theatre World Award, and even the prestigious Tony Awards (Best Musical, Direction of a Musical, Choreography, Scenic Design for a Musical, Costume Design for a Musical, and Lighting Design for a Musical).

As of early this month, “The Lion King” has already been staged 6,648 times, making it the fifth longest-running show on Broadway after “Lés Miserables,” “Chicago (Revival),” “Cats”, and “The Phantom of the Opera.” Meanwhile, as of April last year, the musical holds the title of being the highest grossing Broadway show of all time, having made a whopping $853.8 million.

Photo via

On October 19, 1999, “The Lion King” made its debut across the pond at West End’s Lyceum Theatre, where it’s still running. The next 14 years saw the musical being staged in various countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. “The Lion King” has been playing at the Minskoff Theater, still at Broadway, since 2006.

All information in this article were sourced from Playbill and Wikipedia. You may also want to visit The Lion King musical’s official website here.

Like this article? Check out more stories from our Today in History series in the Lomography magazine!

written by chooolss on 2013-11-13 #lifestyle #broadway #musical #disney #today-in-history #the-lion-king #elton-john #tim-rice #julie-taymor

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