30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #9 - THE LION KING Vs. RAGTIME
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on another major battle for Best Musical in 1998 with THE LION KING versus RAGTIME.
Pitting two of the most important musicals of the 1990s against one another for the top prize, 1998 was an unforgettable year for Tony Awards prognosticators. Would the elegant and opulent American historical musical RAGTIME best the Disney-produced screen-to-stage spectacle of THE LION KING? Furthermore, what would the eventual decision say about the state of the theatre? Plus, which show is actually better? Featuring a long-running hit still running on the Great White Way to this very day alongside a respected and oft-revived piece of Americana, THE LION KING versus RAGTIME is one for the record books.
Directed by acclaimed visual artist and puppeteer Julie Taymor, THE LION KING defied the odds by not only conjuring up an entire African animal community live onstage with actors and puppets in all of the rose, but also finding theatrical equivalents for many of the international mega-hit film's most iconic and memorable scenes. From the spine-tingling coup de theatre that opens the show - with the animals entering through the audience and up onto the stage - through to the many sensational showstopping sequences throughout the show, it is undeniable that THE LION KING was a fully-realized and fully-developed stage piece in its own right, boasting the Academy Award-winning musical material from the film as composed by Hans Zimmer, Elton John and Tim Rice.
On the other hand, RAGTIME was a true, red, white and blue new American musical of the highest order, penned by noted playwright Terrence McNally with a score by songwriting team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flahery, led by director Frank Galati and choreographer Graciela Daniele. Tackling the expansive and epic EL Doctorow novel of the same name, RAGTIME offered audiences the opportunity to glance back at a rich and volatile period in American history, headlined by an exceptional original cast in a stunning and carefully crafted original Broadway production.
Yet, at the end of the day, THE LION KING took home the top prize. Nevertheless, RAGTIME took home trophies for Best Featured Actress In A Musical thanks to Audra McDonald, as well as Best Original Score, Best Book and Best Orchestrations. THE LION KING won the lion's share of technical awards, nabbing Best Direction, Best Choreography (Garth Fagan), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson) and Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor).
30 DAYS OF THE 2014 Tony Awards IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY... This fall, Fathom Events will present Tim Rice's timeless new musical "From Here to Eternity" to cinemas across the United States. Captured during the show's successful six-month West End run, U.S. audiences will be able to enjoy the UK production, as well as exclusive extras, on the big screen before it hits Broadway in 2015. More information is available here.
So, now, let's look at some of the most memorable Tony Awards moments that relate to THE LION KING and RAGTIME.
THE LION KING kicks off the 1998 Tony Awards with "The Circle Of Life".
After that, see the cast return to the Tonys in 2008.
The cast of RAGTIME performs on the 1998 Tony Awards.
See Christiane Noll represent the RAGTIME revival in 2010.
Lastly, see the acceptance speech for Best Musical.
So, which musical do you feel is worthy of Best Musical most? Is RAGTIME the production you can't forget or is THE LION KING too overwhelmingly entertaining to deny? Either way, 1998 was clearly a touchstone Tony Awards year... and the debate rages on!