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Galas: Lion King 10th, Protest, Priscilla & Feinstein

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The Lion King will celebrate its tenth anniversary this weekend with a gala performance at the Lyceum Theatre on Sunday 18 October 2009. Former cast members along with the show’s creative team will gather with a host of celebrities and friends to celebrate ten years in the West End.

Based on Disney's 1994 animated feature film, the stage adaptation opened first on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November 1997 before receiving its West End premiere at the Lyceum Theatre on 19 October 1999 (previews from 24 September). The original Broadway creative team, led by director and designer Julie Taymor, reunited for the London production, with choreography by Garth Fagan, costumes by Taymor, puppetry and masks by Taymor and Michael Curry and set design by Richard Hudson.

In the decade since, The Lion King has been seen by over eight million people at over 4,200 performances in London, equalling an average attendance of 93% capacity, and has grossed in excess of £289 million at the box office. It now ranks among the top ten longest-running shows in West End history.

“It’s profoundly gratifying to see that British audiences continue to embrace The Lion King in such an extraordinary way,” said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions. “I am tremendously proud of our entire creative team as well as our cast and crew in the West End who bring Julie Taymor’s glorious production to life each and every time the curtain rises.”

Taymor added: “Over the past ten years, more than 220 performers from all over the world have been part of the incredible company in London, each bringing their own unique talents, energy and joy to help tell this universal story. The thing that moves me most about the success of The Lion King is the fact that it truly transcends the barriers between culture and between races and is able to tell a story in a style that speaks to everyone equally.”

The Lion King features 15 songs, including the five from the film. Unlike the screen version, however, African sounds and rhythms are fused on stage with Western popular music to create the musical's distinctive sound. The stage score comprises three new songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional numbers by South African-born Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Hans Zimmer and Julie Taymor. The book is by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.

Amongst other upcoming one-off events and galas:

  • Also this Sunday 18 October 2009, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket at 7.30pm, Martin Shaw, Jenny Seagrove and Nichola McAuliffe will perform an evening of music and stories called Horses’ Tales, held in aid of the Horse Refuge, an organisation which cares for sick and discarded horses and fights against their mistreatment. Tickets range from £15 to £35, or £50 for a VIP package including champagne, a programme and the opportunity to meet the stars after the show after. Call 0845 481 1870 to book.
  • On Tuesday 20 October 2009, at 7.30pm at Trafalgar Studios, Barrie Rutter, director of the theatre’s main house Northern Broadsides production of Othello starring Lenny Henry, will take to the stage with his own one-man show. A One Night Stand With Barrie Rutter tells the story of the Yorkshire man's journey from the Humberside docks to London's West End, and aims to raise awareness of prostate cancer, as as 62-year-old Rutter himself was diagnosed with the disease four years ago. Tickets are priced £19.50 and all proceeds go to the Prostate Cancer Charity. Call 0844 871 7632 to book.
  • On Sunday 1 November 2009, at 7.30pm at the London Palladium, Broadway star Michael Feinstein, billed as one of “premier interpreters the Great American Songbook”, will perform a repertoire of songs by the likes of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Sinatra and Sammy Cahn with his 17-piece Big Band. This four-time Grammy nominee is the co-owner of the famous New York cabaret club, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. Proceeds from the evening will be donated to the New End Theatre in Hampstead. Tickets are priced £30 to £97.50. Call 0870 0332733 to book.
  • On Remembrance Sunday 8 November 2009, at 3pm at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Eloquent Protest returns to the West End for a fourth time. Former MP and veteran campaigner Tony Benn and multi award-winning stage actress Janie Dee host the event, in which an array of artists give their time freely to explore the power of words and music against the human cost of war. Amongst those due to take part are Peter Straker, Rupert Wickham and Margaret Preece. Tickets are £18, with £15 concessions and war veterans able to attend for free. All profits go to the Mark Wright Project, created by the parents of the eponymous 27-year-old private who dies in Afghanistan. The charity provides aid for servicemen and women recovering from the physical and mental wounds of war. Call 0844 871 7623 to book.
  • On Tuesday 17 November 2009 at the Royal Albert Hall, children’s theatre company Chickenshed will hold its 20th Annual Fundraising Gala Event, at the same time as celebrating its 35th anniversary. Joanna Lumley will be speaking about the work of Chickenshed and making a distinctive birthday appeal. Amongst the celebrities already confirmed to attend are Victoria Wood, Maria Friedman and Dmitry Sitkovesky. The evening will also include a 'money can't buy' auction conducted by Lord Harry Dalmeny from Sotheby's. Chickenshed needs £3 million every year to continue its work with young people. Call 020 8292 9222 for more info.
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