It doesn’t take long to find yourself getting wrapped up in “The Lion King.”
From the first bars of the African chant used to open the show, audiences are quickly swept away to a different world, and since it first played Broadway in 1998, theater lovers haven’t lost their passion for the story, the music and the costumes.
“It’s the perfect Aristotelian story, the perfect hero’s journey, so it’s a completely satisfying emotional experience for the audience,” said Dodd Loomis, resident director of the classic musical coming to Proctors on Tuesday for a month-long stay.
’The Lion King’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Tuesday and runs through April 17; performance times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $170-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
“The story is derived from ‘Hamlet,’ and why is ‘Hamlet’ still around after all these years? People love the story, and then you have the exquisite and theatrical visual elements of the show. There’s a major ‘wow’ factor involved, the staging is gorgeous and you have a handful of incredible songs. You can really feel the circle of life.”
Loomis should know. He’s been with the national tour for over a year now, making sure that Broadway-like standards remain in place from city to city and through all the various cast changes.
“I’m going to be on the road for 1,000 days, and my wife is currently six months pregnant so we’re trying to figure out how we can do all we have to do,” said Loomis, who grew up in New Orleans.
“It also gets pretty complex behind the stage, and there are two stage hands for every actor so there’s a lot to think about. There are around 100 people backstage and everyone has to know what’s going on. And every stage and the mechanics are different, so every time we go to another city, we have to rehearse the show and get through it once before we do it in front of a live audience.”
Along with Shakespeare, “The Lion King” also draws parallels to the biblical tales of Moses and Joseph. The show is based on an original idea by writer Don Tisch, and takes place in a kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa.
The story focuses on the trials and tribulations of a young lion named Simba and his two colorful associates, Timon, the meerkat, and Pumbaa, the warthog. Each actor holds a puppet that represents his character, although the performers are also dressed to look like their characters.
The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 1998 and won six of them. Based on the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name, “The Lion King” music was written by Elton John and Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer.
The stage production was directed by Julie Taymor, and is still being performed on Broadway, making it the third-longest running show of all time.
Box office smash
It is also the biggest box office success in Broadway’s history, grossing over $1 billion. It is also the most popular show in Proctors’ history, according to CEO Philip Morris, who scheduled the show for a month back in February of 2012.
“It’s not logical to do it just for a week because of how big the load-out is,” said Morris. “So doing it for a week was never in the cards, and the ticket sales are going pretty well. They make an assessment and so do we, and because it did so well the first time we’re both comfortable it will do very well the second time. It’s a great show. It works.”
B.J. Covington and Julian Rivera-Summerville are currently alternating as young Simba, and Aaron Nelson, who played Simba as a young man on Broadway, is also that character for the national tour.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]