There are many things we have missed over the last 18 months, but as far as shows are concerned, THE LION KING has to be right up there.

We’ve spoken to so many families around South Wales who had this planned for a long time. Kids were understandably excited. Mums, Dads and Grandparents too were all in on the act. The really good news however, is that The King is set to return and now the Walt Disney Company UK and Ireland has given us a look at cast members STEPHENSON ARDERN-SODJE and NOKWANDA KHUZWAYO in the rehearsal room, having taken over the roles of Simba and Nala.

Disney’s The Lion King Tour Rehearsals: Nokwanda Khuzwayo as Nala and Stephenson Ardern-Sodje as Simba (Pic: Disney)

There’s also going to be massive support for Cardiff born OWAIN RHYS DAVIES who joins the show for the first time in the role of Ed.

If you haven’t seen this awesome spectacle live on stage, it will be so worth it. Not only is the show on its way, but they’ll be here for 7 weeks from the 7th July to 27th August, which is near enough two years to the day it should have been here pre-pandemic.

It’s actually been almost seven years since the THE LION KING was in town for a 10 week run. Back then the show brought millions into the South Wales economy. This production really is far more than a theatrical experience.

Graeme Farrow is the Centres’ Artistic and Creative Director and like us, is ecited to have the production back at the WMC. He told us…..

‘We are thrilled to be welcoming THE LION KING. It’s a timeless production for everyone, young and old.’

Unbelievably, Disney’s award-winning musical is now in its 22nd year at London’s Lyceum Theatre, and they have just extended booking, so it seems it’s there to stay. If you think you’ve seen THE LION KING trust us, you’ve seen nothing till you witness it live on stage. It’s like a massive explosion of glorious colours, stunning effects and enchanting music (songs we all secretly sing-a-long to). 

Just in case you’ve been living under Pride Rock and don’t know the story of THE LION KING. It follows the journey of Simba from wide-eyed (and very cute) lion cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.

The story roars into life using spectacular masks, puppets, and costumes to tell the story of Simba’s epic adventures, as he struggles with the responsibilities of adulthood and becoming king.

Having played in more than 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, THE LION KING’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history. The landmark musical has now been seen by over 110 million people worldwide.

The stunning artistry of the production is the work of a team of designers which drew on diverse cultural influences to recreate the rich colours and vast expanses of the African savanna in this daring and inspiring reinvention of one of the most successful animated feature films of all time.

Julie Taymor, one of the world’s most innovative directors, brought a vast array of disciplines to THE LION KING, including extensive experience staging epic theatre and opera productions, exploring classic myths through ritualised puppetry, mask, and movement.

The Lion King was the first musical Julie directed in the commercial theatre and she made Broadway history by becoming the first woman to win the Tony Award® for Best Director of a Musical.  

The Broadway show’s full creative team, which won five Tony Awards® for its work on THE LION KING, reunited in 1999 to recreate the show in London. Julie Taymor and Michael Curry created hundreds of masks and puppets.

The Lion King (Pic: Disney)

We have to confess that the SOUTH WALES LIFE team have a bit of history with THE LION KING having worked with Disney at the start of the very first UK opening. We were also involved with the World Premiere of MARY POPPINS in Bristol some years ago, but that’s another story.

We were also fortunate to don our best evening wear for the Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall where the cast of THE LION KING performed a special number for the show. You can watch their performance of The Circle Of Life RIGHT HERE incidentally, it’s fab.

South Wales Life At The Olivier Awards 2019…

As I’m sure you know, the original animated classic movie had a live action reincarnation with a fabulous cast: Seth Rogan, Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, Chance The Rapper, Donald Glover and the list goes on and on. The film is terrific. You know exactly what’s going to happen and of course, every word to every song (apart from the new one). If you want to have a sing-a-long to the new Circle Of Life we found this HERE.

And talking about the music, the original score from the animated film was expanded for the stage and now features 15 musical numbers.  As well as writing completely new songs, South African composer Lebo M created an evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina.

Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film. The resulting sound of THE LION KING is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, including the Academy Award®-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight and the haunting Shadowland.

The Lion King (Pic: Disney)

THE LION KING live not only has a permanent home in London and Broadway but has toured the world extensively. So to get you in the mood for its Cardiff visit, here are our………..

THE LION KING FACTS

RAFIKI WAS CHANGED TO A FEMALE CHARACTER FOR THE MUSICAL

THE LION KING PREMIERE TOOK PLACE IN MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (USA) IN 1997 BEFORE MOVING TO BROADWAY LATER THAT YEAR.

THE LION KING MUSICAL DEBUTED ITS FIRST EVER PERFORMANCE IN AFRICA IN JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA.THE SHOW DEBUTED AT THE WEST END’S LYCEUM THEATRE IN 1999 AND IS STILL RUNNING.

THE LION KING HAS BEEN IN OVER A DOZEN COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE WORLD.

IT TAKES 114 PEOPLE TO PREPARE FOR EACH PERFORMANCE.

THE LION KING HAS WON AROUND 80 MAJOR AWARDS WORLDWIDE INCLUDING TONY AWARD FOR BEST MUSICAL, THE GRAMMY FOR BEST MUSICAL SHOW ALBUM AND THE OLIVIER AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN.

THE PHRASE “HAKUNA MATATA” (“NO WORRIES”) IS SAID 25 TIMES IN EVERY PERFORMANCE.

THERE ARE 5 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES USED IN THE LION KING INCLUDING ZULU, XHOSA AND SWAHILI.

IT TOOK MORE THAN 17,000 HOURS TO MAKE ALL THE COSTUMES AND PUPPETS FOR THE BROADWAY PRODUCTION OF THE LION KING USING 750 POUNDS OF SILICONE RUBBER.

PERFORMANCE DESIGN USES OVER 700 DIFFERENT LIGHTING INSTRUMENTS INCLUDING 100 MOVING LIGHTS.

THE TALLEST ANIMALS IN THE SHOW ARE THE 18 FOOT EXOTIC GIRAFFES IN THE SONG “I JUST CAN’T WAIT TO BE KING”.

THE TINIEST ANIMAL IN THE SHOW IS THE TRICK MOUSE AT THE END OF SCAR’S CANE: 5 INCHES LONG (OR SHORT).

The full THE LION KING touring company will see Stephenson Ardern-Sodje as Simba and Nokwanda Khuzwayo as Nala, who played the role in Germany and Brazil. Ireland’s Alan Mchale will be returning in a new role as Timon with Cardiff born newcomer Owain Rhys Davies taking the role of Ed. They will join returning principals Matthew Forbes as Zazu, Jean-Luc Guizonne as Mufasa, Richard Hurst as Scar, Rebecca Omogbehin as Shenzi, Thandazile Soni as Rafiki, Carl Sanderson as Pumbaaand Simon Trinder as Banzai.

Disney’s photographs above are incredible (thank you) and only whet our appetite even more for the shows arrival.

Tickets for THE LION KING at The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff are on sale now, existing tickets are still valid.

The new dates are 7th July to 27th August. For more information, go here. LION KING

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