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Broadway comes roaring back to life, and so does Disney's "The Lion King"

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Broadway comes roaring back to life, and so does Disney's "The Lion King"

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Well, it wasn't quite how Disney Theatrical had hoped the 10th anniversary of Broadway's "The Lion King" would play out.

By that I mean: The Mouse had literally had this celebration in the works for months. With the kick-off happening 'way back in June, when this Tony Award-winning musical had its South African premiere at the Montecasino Teatro in Johannesburg.

 Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But the event that everyone on "The Lion King" 's creative team had really been looking forward to was that 10th anniversary gala performance. Which was to be held on Sunday, November 11th at the Minskoff Theatre.

All the final arrangements had been made. Everything was in readiness ... And then -- early on the morning of Saturday, November 10th -- Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees called for a strike. And with that, all of Disney Theatrical's carefully crafted celebration plans went straight out the window.

Without any stagehands to move all of that elaborate scenery at the Minskoff (More to the point, given that none of the show's performers were willing to cross Local 1's picket line), there was really no point in trying to go forward with "The Lion King" 's gala performance. But -- then again -- the caterers had already begun preparing all of those thousands of canap├ęs which were to be served at the after-party at Cipriani 42.

The original cast of "The Lion King" with director Julie Taymor (center)
and producer Thomas Schumacher (second from the right).
Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Bruce Glikas

Which is why Disney Theatrical eventually opted to go forward with the after-party. Seeing as they didn't want all that food to go to waste. More importantly, given that dozens of former "Lion King" performers had already flown in NYC so that they could then attend this gala performance as well as the after-party.

And -- as it turned out -- Disney Theatrical made the right call. For the after-party at Cipriani 42 turned into this wonderful reunion for all of the actors who'd ever appeared in the Broadway production of "The Lion King" and/or its various road companies & international productions.

10 years of kids who played Young Nala and Young Simba with director Julie Taymor (center, sitting).
Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Bruce Glikas

As it turned out, it would be quite a while after that party at Cipriani 42 before the cast of Broadway's "The Lion King" was able to get back together again. You see, the stagehand's strike would drag on 'til November 28th before Local 1 and the League of American Theaters & Producers could finally come to terms.

Now you'd think that -- what with the stagehand's strike resulting in the cancellation of "The Lion King" 's 10th anniversary gala performance -- that there might be some residual bad feeling. Well, think again.

As longtime "TLK" cast member Ron Kunene recently explained it to me:

"The stagehands at the Minskoff are a vital part of our family. The show that we present every night wouldn't be nearly as impressive if they weren't working behind the scenes, making sure that everything is right where it's supposed to be for every single performance. These guys are really the unsung heroes of Disney's 'The Lion King' and we appreciate every little thing that they do."

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Well, even though the official 10th anniversary of this show's opening night (i.e. "The Lion King" opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on November 13, 1997) has come and gone, you can still get in on this year-long celebration by catching a performance of this Disney Theatrical production. If you're interested in picking up a few tickets for the Broadway version of "The Lion King," then I suggest that you click on this link.

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