Hakuna Matata: ‘The Lion King’ Marks 25-Year Anniversary On Broadway

One of the most popular musicals of all time, The Lion King, is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Broadway. The spectacular musical first premiered in Minneapolis, MN. in the summer of 1997 at the Orpheum Theatre, according to Playbill. 

Julie Taymor, writer and director of The Lion King, recalled the audience’s reaction, as well as her own, to the first show, in an interview with The View.

“The audience started screaming so early. When the animals came down the aisle everybody shot up,” said Taymor, according to the Associated Press.

“I burst into tears. We were just overwhelmed and we knew we had something.”

The show soon made its Broadway debut, and by 2012, the show had become the highest-grossing show of all time on Broadway. The Associated Press shares that the honor previously belonged to The Phantom of the Opera, a show that has been on Broadway since 1988. The Lion King is also revolutionary because of the show’s African roots and Asian-inspired puppets to tell the tale of an African king. 


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Taymor created a magical world with African masks, stilt work, Balinese-style puppets, and tapestry incorporating part-animal and part-human figures. The giant puppets, operated by actors, create a 16th-century style similar to Bunraku theater.

“This is where theater is better than film,” said Taymor according to the Associated Press. “It completely surrounds you, 360 degrees. It’s physical, it’s dimensional and the lighting tells you where to look or the voice pulls you in.”

The show also incorporates songs from Grammy-winning recording artist Elton John. Taymor was the first woman to win a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for her work. Since its debut, the show has been performed in more than 21 countries and has been seen by 110 million people in 100 cities, according to Playbill.