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Lion King Back in Royal Favour, Disney Celebrates

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Disney’s The Lion King will next month become the first West End musical to give an encore performance at the annual Royal Variety Performance.

The current cast, led by Shaun Escoffery as Mufasa, will perform “The Circle of Life” live in front of TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the 80th anniversary charity gala, which takes place this year at the West End’s London Palladium on 11 December 2008. The concert will be broadcast on BBC One later in the month.

The Lion King, now in its tenth year at the Lyceum Theatre, first performed at the Royal Variety Performance in 1999 just after it opened in the West End. Amongst the other more recently opened musicals that will be taking part in this year’s event are Jersey Boys, Zorro and La Cage Aux Folles.

Other theatrical artists amongst the line-up are: John Barrowman, Josh Groban, George Sampson (the Britain’s Got Talent teen star who made his West End debut this year in Into the Hoods), Kerry Ellis, Queen’s Brian May and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Just before the Royal Variety of Performance, the music of Disney will also be celebrated with a special concert on 8 December 2008 at The Lion King’s home, the Lyceum Theatre. The current cast will perform along with a company of Broadway and West End stars including Maria Friedman, Adam Pascal, Matt Rawle, Drew Sarich, Ashley Brown, Tituss Burgess and Kerry Butler, accompanied by the 74-piece BBC Concert Orchestra. Radio 2 Celebrates the Music of Disney, recorded as a Christmas special edition of the Friday Night Is Music Night programme, will be aired on Boxing Day, 26 December 2008.

Based on Disney\'s 1994 animated feature film, the stage adaptation of The Lion King opened first on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November 1997. 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.

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.

The West End production of The Lion King opened on 19 October 1999 (previews from 24 September) and is currently booking through to 19 July 2009.

- by Terri Paddock


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