The Lion King – Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World is a comprehensive look at one of the most successful entertainment creations ever. To give a sense of the impact of this show over 90 million people have seen the Lion King on stage to date. The show has earned over $7 billion and it is still running and touring throughout the world so this total grows daily. To give that number some perspective.. that is more than all the Star Wars films grossed combined when the book was published.
The book is organized into three parts. The first, “Birth of a King” chronicles how the original story for the film came to be (or almost did not come to be). Then the creative process to bring it to the stage looking at the various aspects of the production including the story, music, costumes, sets, casting, and then on to workshops and rehearsals. It takes the story up to opening night.
Part II, “From Broadway to America” starts with opening night, November 13, 1997 with a bulk of the chapter devoted to a brief page or two on each song and several images from that scene. The chapter wraps up showcasing some of the memorable moments from the show including celebrities and other dignitaries who paid a visit. It then then concludes with the launch of the United States Tours.
Part II, “The Roar Heard Round the World” is dedicated to looking at over a dozen of the international productions of the show. It features some stories/quotes from each as well as pictures. The narrative discusses some of the challenges for each including cultural, casting, and venues.
I enjoyed reading this deep dive into the history, creation and success of the Lion King. The numbers are amazing and when you look behind them at what it took to reach them it’s even more outstanding. The book is a comfortable read with plenty of detail in the running narrative. To support this there are a lot of interviews with individuals from many aspects of the production ranging from the creative team through various cast members and those in supporting roles (such as ushers, stage hands, etc). I found the quotes/firsthand accounts from the numerous international productions to be really interesting reads. The images are a highlight of the book. The author/team took advantage of the larger format book to include a very large number of full page and even two page spread full color photos from various productions around the world as well as concept art and some behind the scenes photos.
If you are looking to add a Lion King on Broadway book to your library or learn more about this amazing production, the breadth of what is discussed in The Lion King Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World and the large number of images put it at the top of my list of the ones I have read so far.