Friday, January 30, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Your Behind-the-Scenes Video Tour of Pride Rock

Did you miss the live Tweet of our Pride Rock tour today? Check it out below for fun behind-the-scenes video, photos and info! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Learn with The Lion King

Click to download
Disney's The Lion King is more than just a breathtaking spectacle -- it's a chance to learn about  family, character, animals, cultures and so much more. For The Lion King, audiences can get a head start with the show's study guide, offering audiences a chance to go in-depth with the show.

The Lion King study guide is packed full of activities and lessons for teachers and parents alike to share with their students. If you are bringing children to the show and are looking for ways to make the most of your child's first - or 50th! - theatrical experience, this is the perfect resource.

Our local school districts have some extra days off coming up in February that may be the perfect chance to add some fun learning opportunities into those days out of the classroom:
  • Shelby County Schools: Out Monday, February 16
  • Collierville, Germantown, Bartlett, Arlington schools: Out Friday, February 13
  • Desoto County Schools: Out Friday, February 13 and Monday, February 16
You'll also find the best available seats during weeknight performances. In fact, you can still get discounted rates for groups of 10 or more for your family, friends, or schools through Friday, January 30. Call 901-529-4226 or click here to see ticket prices and availability.

Click here to read the story of The Lion King in the production's study guide, including in-depth summaries, behind-the-scenes magic and fun hands-on activities. The Lion King is live on stage at The Orpheum February 3 through March 1, 2015.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Broadway Buzz: You Won't Believe What It Takes to Bring the Savannah to Life

When Disney's The Lion King premiered on Broadway in 1997, the production was unlike anything the Great White Way had seen before. Bringing an animated movie to life on stage was an incredible feat, and we wanted to share some fun facts with you about how the talented cast and crew will create this magic for every performance Feb. 3 - March 1, live in front of a crowd of thousands.

  • The original Broadway production's director and designers, including Julie Taymor, hand sculpted and painted every prototype for the masks you see on stage. Their department of skilled mask makers, sculptors, puppeteers and artisans spent 17,000 hours to build the anthropomorphic animal characters for the original Broadway production.
  • Each mask weighs just under 1 pound and is made of silicone rubber. Simba's mask weighs 7 ounces while Sarabi's weighs only 4 ounces, however 750 pounds of rubber were used to make all of the masks in the show.
  • Keep an eye out for the four 18-foot giraffes in "I Just Can't Wait to be King" -- they're the tallest animals in the production and are the same size as their real-life counterparts. Actors trained in stilt-walking climb 6-foot ladders to fit inside these colorful puppets.
  • The largest and longest animal is the elephant -- nicknamed Bertha -- at 13 feet long and 9 feet wide, and requiring four actors to maneuver. Children will especially enjoy her entrance on show night, so make sure you're watching the aisles.
  • The Timon meerkat puppet weight 15 pounds; Pumbaa's costume, worn like a backpack, weighs 45 pounds and is the heaviest outfit in the show.
  • The yearly upkeep and maintenance of the 20 Grasslands headdresses requires over 3,000 stalks of grass (roughly 60 pounds).
  • Worldwide, nearly 1,100 people are directly employed by The Lion King, including 20 whose sole mission is artistic upkeep of the show. On tour, there are 134 people directly involved with the daily production of the show.

Some quick facts and figures:

  • Puppets including rod puppets, shadow puppets and full-sized puppets:  200
  • Ants on the Ant-Hill Lady costume:  100
  • Wigs:  45
  • Wildebeests:  52
  • Hyenas:  39
  • Types of animals, birds, fish and insects represented in the show:  25
  • Gazelles:  15, five actors each wear a gazelle puppet on both arms and one affixed to their head.
  • Gazelles on the gazelle wheel prop:  6
  • Lionesses:  14 (Nala, Young Nala and 12 ensemble in the ‘Lioness hunt’).
  • Bird Kites:  12, featured in “One By One,” the opening number of Act II.
  • Bird Ladies:  5
  • Bird Man:  1
  • Simba representations:  6 (Baby Simba puppet, Young Simba-actor, Young Simba puppet, Simba Shadow puppet, Rafiki’s Simba painting-Act I & II, Adult Simba-actor).
  • Zebras:  3
  • Elephants:  2 (Bertha and the Baby Elephant)
  • Antelope:  2
  • Rhinoceros: 1
  • Cheetah: 1

There are six indigenous African languages spoken in the show:
  • Swahili
  • Zulu
  • Xhosa (the click language)
  • Sotho
  • Tswana
  • Congolese

The Lion King has been translated into eight languages:
  • Japanese
  • German
  • Korean
  • French
  • Dutch
  • Mandarin
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
We're honored to present this incredible work of art live on the Orpheum stage for a full month. Click here for a video sneak peek and information about tickets and showtimes.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Disney's THE LION KING Takes Audiences on a Cultural Odyssey

Tshidi Manye as "Rafiki" in the opening  number
"The Circle of Life" from THE LION KING National Tour.
© Disney. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
It's no secret that Disney's The Lion King offers audiences breathtaking interpretations of the African savannah and its native wildlife, all of which set to awe-inspiring choreography and exquisite costumes.  However, not quite as evident to those without a music or puppetry background is that The Lion King incorporates artistic customs inspired not just from Africa, but from around the globe!

First, and most noticeable, is the music.  The Lion King's musical score is influenced by both western popular culture and African rhythms.  The songs and the instruments are used to give the audience insights into each character as well as advance the story. 

When the decision was made to adapt the animated film into a musical, the creative team decided that additional songs would be needed in order to fully tell the story.  Specifically, The Lion King incorporated the work of musician Lebo M.  With his help, the score was able to tap into the complex and beautiful rhythms of South African music.  Lebo M. co-wrote music and lyrics that would add to the original songs that Elton John and Tim Rice created for the film, introducing American cast members to an African style of singing.

"World Music: The Rough Guide" states, "South Africa is distinguished by the most complex musical history, the greatest profusion of styles, and the most intensely developed recording industry anywhere in Africa."  In The Lion King, this passion is evident from the very first note to the final bow.

Patrick R. Brown as “Scar” in THE LION KING National Tour.
© Disney.  Photo Credit:  Joan Marcus.
Also inspired by the cultures and customs of Africa are the masks used to give each actor their animal qualities.  In Africa, masks are considered a functional work of art, and they serve to breathe life into storytelling.  Director Julie Taymor was very inspired by African masks, describing them in The Lion King DVD as "more abstract, much more stylized, much more essential."  She, in partnership with puppet expert Michael Curry, decided to make masks that would not hide the person behind them.  They termed this the "double effect" where every mask allows the audience to see the both mask's fixed expression and the actor's varying and ever-changing face.

Next, we travel to Japan for a taste of Bunraku puppetry.  In The Lion King, we see large beautiful puppets on the stage, but we can also see the puppeteers operating them.  This style is derived from the Japanese tradition of Bunraku, named after its founder Uemura Bunrakuken.  Like the masks, the audience receives another "double effect" by getting information about the characters and the story through both the puppet's and the actor's movements on the stage.

Also used in The Lion King is shadow puppetry.  You may not have realized it, but you've probably practiced this form of storytelling when you were sitting by a campfire or using a flashlight in a dark room, using your fingers to create images on the wall.  It's fascinating that this form of puppetry has been around for thousands of years, potentially originating in Greece or even China.  When we meet Scar, he is hunting a mouse - here we see the Indonesian form of shadow puppetry called wayang kulit, where flat puppets are shown before a muslin screen.

So as the curtain goes up on your upcoming visit to the Orpheum to see Disney's The Lion King, we encourage you to keep an eye out for these fascinating cultural inspirations and take note of how much depth and beauty each element adds to the overall experience.  To discover even more about the show, it's influences, and how it went from screen to stage, download The Lion King's official study guide here.

Disney's The Lion King plays at The Orpheum Theatre February 3 - March 1, 2015.  Tickets are available for purchase at, by calling 866.870.2717, on the Orpheum website or by calling the Orpheum Box Office at 901.525.3000.

Source: The Lion King Study Guide, The Lion King Backgrounder