Which Broadway musical starts with the line,"Nants ingonyama, bagithi baba?"
And the answer: The Lion King.
Debuting in 1997, The Lion King is Broadway's third longest-running show in history. Based on the 1994 animated Disney movie, the musical tells the story of a young lion named Simba, who is preparing to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands.
The Lion King on Broadway was an immediate hit. At the 1998 Tony Awards, the show won six trophies, including Best Musical, Best Costume Design, and Best Direction. Director Julie Taymor walked away from the ceremony as the first woman in history to be bestowed with these honors. Since its Broadway debut, The Lion King musical has gone on to be recreated in 24 global productions, grossing an audience of over 90 million people across the world.
Interestingly, however, the original plans for this soon-to-be international success looked nothing like the well-loved classic known to the world today. In fact, the initial script for the screen did not contain music at all. Creator Thomas Schumacher describes:
“When I started on The Lion King 27 years ago, it was a four-page treatment about a war between lions and baboons. Rafiki was a cheetah; Scar was a baboon. It wasn’t the story we know today. People didn't want to work on [it]."
It wasn't until Schumacher's husband proposed the idea of music that The Lion King in its animated form began to come together. Soon after the idea was proposed, music legends Sir Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer signed on to create the iconic, chart-topping soundtrack.
For the Broadway production, it was director Julie Taymor's influence that led the musical to success. Her puppetry experience, costume ideas, and fresh take to the script catapulted the production into its immortal place in history. Today, The Lion King has been performed on every continent in the world except Antarctica.
Schumacher's advice on creating an international success? Failure. He insists:
“The biggest lesson is: The recipe for success is the formula for failure. If you think you know how to do it, you’re in a terrible position. You have to approach everything as if it’s the first time.”
Watch the iconic song "Circle of Life" on Broadway below.