By Wayne Harada
Disney’s “The Lion King” is set to roar again in an eight-week run beginning next Jan. 14 at Blaisdell Concert Hall. Disney Theatricals officials and local leaders anticipate that Hawaii’s aloha for the iconic show will resonate again, meaning potential box office gold.
When the Tony Award-winning musical played an unprecedented 13-week run in the fall-winter of 2007, it attracted an audience of 180,000, generating $45 million in expenditures for every $1 spent here.
State and city leaders envision that the shorter run will still attract 120,000 with new and repeat customers and spending will reach $30 million in the same multiplying formula, making it a win-win for the producers and the locals.
“We really did make history,” said Jack Lucas, president of West Coast Entertainment, which partnered with Disney Theatricals in the Mouse House’s first theatrical venture in the 50th state. “All hands within the (Disney) room said yeah,” when the gross and attendance records were broken for the first visit.
So the partnership will continue in 2014, when “The Lion King” will occupy Blaisdell Concert Hall from Jan. 14 through March 9.
Ticket specifics are not yet announced, though group ticket sales will begin Thursday (March 28) via the Hawaii Opera Theatre box office. Those buying in groups of 10 or more will be offered first dibs on seats, down from groups of 20 in the first go-round. To order tickets at 10 per cent off single prices, call 593-9468.
Single ticket sales will begin this summer, but a date has not yet been set.
Now with “Lion King 2.0” looming, Mayor Kirk Caldwell anticipates another round of success. In addressing media and industry officials and workers, gathered with Gov. Neil Abercrombie at Washington Place, Caldwell embraced the musical’s “Circle of Life” theme song to punctuate our aloha state’s and the show’s differences that bonds the show with the residents. “It’s our differences that pull us together — we need each other to do well,” he said, embracing one of the underlying themes of the musical based on the animated film, where cultures clash, but togetherness ultimately unites.
“The Lion King,” often called the World’s No. 1 musical with 10 production companies touring worldwide, is one of two Disney endeavors on Broadway at the moment, with the closure earlier this month of “Mary Poppins,” which is on a national tour. “Newsies” is the other red-hot Disney hit at the moment — a good bet for a future Honolulu visit.
“The Lion King” now in its 16th year on the Great White Way and is the fifth longest-running musical on Broadway, following “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Chicago” and “Les Miserables.” In its 11th year of touring companies, 66 million have taken in the show, which currently is in residency at the Minskoff Theatre in New York.
The show earned six Tonys in 1998, including Best Musical, along with eight Drama Desk Awards in 1998 and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 1999.
Disney looked to Hawaii as a potential marketplace, after the initial TV and subsequent film success of the animated “Lilo & Stitch” show set in Hawaii and embracing Lilo’s “ohana means family — and family means no one gets left behind” concept in the early 2000s, where an alien (Stitch) should not feel excluded from an island family (Lilo).
To further emphasize the point, Jack Eldon, vice president of touring productions for Disney Theatricals, and Scott Hemerling, national press representative of Disney Theatricals, brought along “Lion King” ohana to perform — Syndee Winters, who is Nala, and Nteliseng Nkhela, who is Rafiki, who performed one of the tunes in the mega-musical, “Shadowlands,” which is about doing what is right for the family.
For John Fuhrman, events and services manager of Blaisdell, doing right for the “Lion King” will be to remove seats again, to create left and right aisles for the majestic animal arrival opening scene of the musical. “We’ll have to take out a couple of hundred seats,” said Fuhrman, which creates the pivotal attention-getting access to elephants and giraffes and other puppets created by director Julie Taymor, to assemble for the grand parade to the stage, just like in New York. The sound track features music by Elton John, Tim Rice and Lebo M and hits include “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Makata.”
Director Taylor also created and conceived puppets and masks, as well as costumes.
In its bid to support local families, the show’s opening night Jan. 14 will be expressly for Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii and military personnel and their families, with special $25 admission, said Lucas.
Can you feel the love a-building again?
‘THE LION KING’
Playing Jan. 14 through March 9
Blaisdell Concert Hall
Group sales (10 or more) begin Thursday (March 28) via the Hawaii Opera Theatre box office
Single ticket sales details will be announced later