The UK Tour of Disney’s legendary musical The Lion King , now in preview performances at The Bristol Hippodrome, has its official opening night on Thursday 6 September. This will mark the first time that Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated production will have toured in the United Kingdom.

An international cast of 52 performers from 17 different countries have been in rehearsal in Bristol for the past eight weeks in preparation. During that same period, the renowned Bristol Hippodrome Theatre has been closed to the public while it has been transformed in readiness for this full-scale production. This has included reconfiguration of the stalls seating to allow for some of the unique staging moments of the production.

"After years of planning and weeks of intensive rehearsals, we are thrilled that tonight the curtain will go up on our first performance in Bristol", said Thomas Schumacher, Producer and President of the Disney Theatrical Group. "Our company is loving their time in this beautiful city, and they cannot wait to share Julie Taymor's extraordinary production with Bristol audiences who have already welcomed them so warmly."

Excitement has been building across the region since this Bristol season was announced in February. The Lion King will welcome visitors from right across Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall – many of whom will be visiting the Hippodrome for the first time.

Four years in development, The Lion King will play a limited 11-week season in Bristol before moving to Manchester’s Palace Theatre. Additional dates to be announced shortly, will see the production visit 10 cities in the UK and Ireland over the next two and a half years.

In advance of this season, theatregoers have had the opportunity to learn more about the production through the unique free exhibition “Exploring The Lion King” which continues to draw thousands of visitors at the Royal West of England Academy. It remains at the RWA until 16 September.

The touring company is led by 11 principals; Gugwana Dlamini as Rafiki, Cleveland Cathnott as Mufasa, Meilyr Sion as Zazu, Stephen Carlile as Scar, Gbemisola Ikumelo as Shenzi, Daniel Norford as Banzai, Philip Oakland as Ed, John Hasler as Timon, Mark Roper as Pumbaa, Nicholas Nkuna as Simba and Carole Stennett as Nala.

The acclaimed stage adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated film was first seen on Broadway in 1997 and has now been seen by over 65 million people across five continents. The London production recently welcomed its 10 millionth guest at London’s Lyceum Theatre where it remains the West End’s best-selling musical.

In addition to the record-breaking productions in London and New York, THE LION KING can currently be seen in Tokyo, Hamburg, Madrid and on tour in the US and Japan. A new production will also open in Australia in 2013.