Disney's The Lion King musical FAQ: Your guide to the 8th longest-running West End show

Posted on 2 April 2020

It's been running in the West End for 20 years now and counting. And although the Lyceum Theatre may be closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for tickets to see The Lion King is bound to be on the rise after the coronavirus falls. It's no secret that Disney films have the power to lift people's spirits and theatregoers will be flocking to Pride Rock again real soon for some much-needed cheer and merriment. In case you have not yet seen this theatrical gem, then there's no better time than now to start planning for your next London theatre experience. At the very least, you'll have something to look forward to once "this" is all over.

Here's everything you need to know about The Lion King in London's West End:

When did The Lion King musical come out?

The Lion King Broadway show transferred to the United Kingdom on 19 October 1999 and has been showing at the Lyceum Theatre in London's West End ever since. The musical first debuted at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on 8 July 1997 before transferring to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway on 15 October 1997.

Where is The Lion King musical playing?

The Lion King is currently showing at the West End's Lyceum Theatre; on Broadway at New York's Minskoff Theatre in Times Square; in Hamburg, Germany at the Theater Im Hafem; in Madrid, Spain at the iconic Lope De Vega Theatre; and in Tokyo, Japan at the Shiki Theatre Natsu. It is also travelling on both a North American and International Tour.

What's The Lion King musical about?

Following a similar story as Disney's hit 1994 blockbuster film of the same name, The Lion King is loosely based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet and tells the story of a young lion cub named Simba, who is next in line to the throne as King of the Pride Lands. But when Simba's evil uncle Scar stages a wildebeest stampede with the help of his hyena minions and lets his brother Mufasa fall to his death, Simba runs for his life, going as far away from the African savannah as possible. He is eventually rescued from dehydration by a meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa, a friendly duo of bug eaters who raise Simba and teach him the philosophy of Hakuna Matata. But when the once beautiful Pride Rock decays under King Scar's rule, Simba's old childhood friend Nala goes searching for help. When she encounters Simba again by chance, the pair fall in love. But Nala leaves when she finds out Simba's unwilling to accept his own destiny to become king. Only with the help of the mandrill witch doctor Rafiki does Simba come to his senses. Can he save the animal kingdom before it's too late?

What language is The Lion King Musical in?

In London, The Lion King is primarily performed in English, however, six indigenous African languages can be heard all throughout the show: Sotho, Zulu, Swahili, Congolese, Tswana, and the "click language" Xhosa. The song "Shadowland", for example, is partially sung in Zulu and was originally entitled "Lea Halalela" (Zulu for "Holy Land"). The Lion King musical has been translated into many world languages for its international productions, including Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and many more. 

What awards did The Lion King musical win?

The Lion King has won six Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design), two Laurence Olivier Awards (Best Theatre Choreographer, Best Costume Design), eight Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Orchestrations, Outstanding Set Design, Outstanding Costume Design, Outstanding Lighting Design, Outstanding Sound Design, Outstanding Puppet Design), one Theatre World Award, three Moliere Awards for the French production (Best Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design), and four Helpmann Awards for the Australian production (Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography in a Musical, Best Costume Design).

What songs are in The Lion King musical?

Act I of The Lion King musical features such toe-tapping numbers as "Circle of Life", "Grasslands Chant", "The Lioness Hunt", "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", "Chow Down", "They Live in You", "Be Prepared", "The Stampede", "Rafiki Mourns", and "Hakuna Matata".  Act II includes "One by One", "The Madness of King Scar", "Shadowland", "Endless Night", "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", "He Lives in You (Reprise)", "Simba Confronts Scar", and "King of Pride Rock/Circle of Life (Reprise)".  

What animals are in The Lion King musical?

The Lion King musical features a whole zoo of captivating critters portrayed by actors and puppets alike. Fans of the classic Disney tale can look forward to lions (actors in lightweight masks), the hornbill Zazu, the meerkat Timon (a 15-pound puppet), the warthog Pumbaa (an actor in a 45-pound costume), the mandrill Rafiki, hyenas including Shenzi, Banzai and Ed (39 hyena puppets), a 9-foot wide and 13-foot long African elephant (a puppet moved by four performers), 18-foot and 14-foot tall giraffes (puppets controlled by actors in stilts), wildebeest (52 puppets), antelope (two portrayed by actors), a black rhinoceros, three zebras, a cheetah, two crocodiles, 15 gazelles (15 puppets worn by just 5 actors), a flock of birds, 100 ants on the ant-hill lady costume, a guinea fowl, buzzards, fireflies, mice, butterflies, and other unspecified fish and birds.

What to wear to The Lion King musical?

There is no dress code for the Lyceum Theatre in London and patrons are encouraged to dress comfortably and appropriately for the performance. That being said, many hardcore fans choose to wear official Lion King merch, such as t-shirts and sweaters. Wearing large, bushy lion manes and tall giraffe hats that could block a person's view from behind you is discouraged. 

Where was The Lion King musical first performed?

The Lion King was first performed in the United States in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Orpheum Theatre on 8 July 1997.

Where is The Lion King musical touring?

The Lion King is currently touring North America and Asia. In 2019, the show embarked on a UK and Ireland tour to commemorate the show's 20th anniversary in London's West End.

How long does The Lion King musical last?

The Lion King musical running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including an interval. Matinee performances of The Lion King take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm and finish at around 5pm whilst evening London performances at 7.30pm generally finish at about 10pm.

Who wrote The Lion King musical?

There is more than Lion King musical writer. The show features a book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi that is based on the original 1994 screenplay by Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton. The Lion King also has music written by Sir Elton John with lyrics by Tim Rice. Additional music and lyrics are penned by Hans Zimmer, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, Lebo M, and Mark Mancina.

Is The Lion King musical worth seeing?

There's a reason why The Lion King has been around for two decades now. Fans just can't get enough of the captivating story, catchy music, and jaw-dropping puppetry from Julie Taymor and Michael Curry. And the musical's eye-popping costumes and brilliant visuals are just to die for! It's one thing to see the movie... but to experience Pride Rock spring to life right before your very eyes is a whole different kettle of fish.

How much are The Lion Long musical tickets?

Officially verified, cheap Lion King tickets are available through London Theatre Direct from as low as £36. With our interactive seating plan, you'll be able to find the best seats at the Lyceum Theatre to suit your needs. Looking to save a little extra money on tickets for The Lion King without sacrificing good views? No problem! Just take a gander at our Lion King seating plan to find the right seat for you, complete with transparent information on restricted views to help you make the best decision. All the guesswork has been done for you!

Why is The Lion King musical so popular?

With a box office gross of nearly $1 billion USD, The Lion King is one of Disney's most successful animated films of all time and has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning two direct-to-video sequels (The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Lion King 1½), two television series (The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa and The Lion Guard), as well as countless video games for various consoles. The Lion King is also remembered fondly as part of Disney's Renaissance Era of films, so it comes as no surprise that theatregoers flock to see their favourite cartoon play out live on stage and curb their appetites for nostalgia.

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Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

Ephram is a jack of all trades and enjoys attending theatre, classical music concerts and the opera.