THE LION KING Celebrates 26th Anniversary on Broadway

The Broadway production opened on November 13, 1997.

By: Nov. 13, 2023
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THE LION KING Celebrates 26th Anniversary on Broadway
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The Lion King celebrates its 26th anniversary on Broadway today, Monday, November 13th.  

While two Broadway juggernauts have previously reached this milestone, The Lion King marks several historic firsts. Never before has a show in its 27th year been playing in so many productions around the world and placed in the Top 5 grossing Broadway shows virtually every week for this long - over 1,300 weeks and counting. Currently, 90,000 people enjoy the show in nine productions on four continents every week. There have been 29 productions over the life of the show, seen by a staggering 115 million people. That is more than the combined populations of Canada, Greece, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Australia.

The Broadway production opened on November 13, 1997 and has played through four NYC Mayoral administrations, five presidential administrations and 11 Olympics.

Composer Lebo M and the Tony-winning choreographer Garth Fagan hold their own Broadway records; with The Lion King at over 10,200 main stem performances, they are the longest running Black composer and choreographer in Broadway history.

Extraordinarily, many of the artists and craftspeople who launched the show remain an integral part of it. Lindiwe Dlamini has performed in the show since its first pre-Broadway preview in Minneapolis in summer 1997. She is joined onstage by her sister, Ntomb’khona Dlamini, who opened the show and has returned to the company many times. Eight musicians have been in the orchestra pit since its Broadway opening: Tom BrettAvril BrownGeorge FlynnEliana MendozaRolando Morales-Matos, Horace “Junior” Wedderburn, David Weiss and Karl Jurman, who has been musical director since 2005. Original crew members include Cynthia Boardman (Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor), Elizabeth Cohen (Production Makeup Supervisor), Hilda Garcia-Suli (Wardrobe), Doug Graf (Head Follow Spot Operator), Anne Salt (Puppet Technician and Props) and Sean Strohmeyer (Varilites Electrics). All told, 16 original staff members continue their vital work onstage and off.


Celebrating 26 landmark years on Broadway, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  Produced by Disney Theatrical Group, under the direction of Andrew FlattAnne Quart and Thomas Schumacher, The Lion King has made theatrical history with three productions worldwide running 20 or more years and two others running 25 or more years. 

Performed over its lifetime in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), there are currently nine productions of The Lion King around the world: Broadway, London, Paris, Hamburg, Madrid, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, on tour across North America and on tour throughout the U.K. & Ireland. The Lion King has played over 100 cities in 24 countries on every continent except Antarctica; its worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.     

The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards®:  Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical.  The Lion King has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design. 

Director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor, the first woman to win a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical, remains actively involved in the show, launching new productions and maintaining the flagship Broadway production. 

The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark MancinaJay RifkinJulie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from "Rhythm of the Pride Lands," an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.  The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to Lebo M’s rich choral numbers.

Elton John, Lebo M and Hans Zimmer all collaborated on the 2019 version of the film, executive produced by Julie Taymor and Thomas Schumacher, which has gone onto extraordinary worldwide success.

The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated The Lion King feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay.  Other members of the creative team include:  Michael Curry, who designed the masks and puppets with Taymor, Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Michael Ward (hair and makeup design), Anthony Lyn (associate director), Marey Griffith (associate choreographer), Clement Ishmael (music supervisor), Lisa Dawn Cave (production supervisor), Thomas Schlenk (general manager) and ARC / Mark Brandon, CSA (casting). Anne Quart serves as executive producer.

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