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WOS TV: Lion King Roars at 10th Anniversary Gala

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The Lion King celebrated its tenth anniversary in London in style yesterday (Sunday 18 October 2009) at the West End’s Lyceum Theatre with a gala performance attended by 250 former cast members as well as myriad celebrities including David Cameron, Cherie Blair, Greg Wise, Donna Air, Gok Wan, Justin Lee Collins, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Fay Ripley, Beverley Knight and James Earl Jones, who voiced the character of Mufasa in Disney’s original 1994 animated film (See News, 14 Oct 2009).

The star-studded audience gave a standing ovation at the curtain call, when the show’s director Julie Taymor and other members of the original Broadway and West End creative team joined the company on stage.

The stage adaptation of The Lion King 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 musical is directed and designed by Julie Taymor, with choreography by Garth Fagan, costumes by Taymor, puppetry and masks by Taymor and Michael Curry and set design by Richard Hudson.

Our TV partners at Reelkandi were on hand for yesterday’s celebrations. This special video feature includes performance extracts from the show as well as exclusive interviews with Julie Taymor, choreographer Gareth Fagan, current stars Shaun Escoffery and Gloria Onitiri, former cast members Ray Shell and Javine Hylton, and celebrity attendees Thomas Sangster, Gok Wan, Natasha Hamilton, Beverley Knight, Phil Spencer and Adrian Lester.

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.

In the decade since it opened at the Lyceum, 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.


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