The Walt Disney Company UK announced that Nick Afoa will be joining the touring production of THE LION KING which arrives at Manchester’s Palace Theatre from 22 October 2020. Afoa is currently starring in the role in London’s West End, where he has performed as Simba for three years after making his stage debut in the Australian production of THE LION KING in 2013.
Not unlike his character in THE LION KING, Afoa has had a journey to take his place on stage. The New Zealand-born, Auckland-raised performer had a promising rugby career with the All Blacks until he was sidelined by injury. After recovering and dedicating himself to his theatre career, nearly a decade later the 30 year-old beat 400 other hopefuls to the role of Simba in the Australian production.
The previous tour of Disney’s The Lion King broke attendance records across the nation and the autumn opening of the 2019 tour coincided with The Lion King celebrating 20 years at London’s Lyceum Theatre. Since the UK premiere in 1999, The Lion King has entertained more than 16 million theatregoers and is the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.
Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated stage adaptation of The Lion King opened on Broadway in 1997 and 25 global productions have now been seen by more than 100 million people. The Lion King is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher.
During The Lion King’s Manchester run in 2013 as part of its first UK tour, it played 166 sold out performances over five months and broke the Box Office record for the biggest revenue ever taken in one day, selling 50,000 tickets. A return visit was added to the end of the tour in 2015 where The Lion King played for an additional five sold out weeks. Over 400,000 guests saw the show, with over 63% being first time visitors to the theatre.
The show has been performed in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese). In addition to this current UK & Ireland tour, productions of The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; on tour across Japan and North America, with a separate production touring internationally, for a total of eight productions running concurrently across the globe.
Having played in more than 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.
With a cast of more than 50 actors, singers and dancers, the story of The Lion King is miraculously brought to life using masks, puppets and striking costumes to tell the story of Simba’s epic adventures as he struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and becoming king.
The stunning artistry of the production is the work of a team of designers which drew on diverse cultural influences to recreate the rich colours and vast expanses of the African Savannah in this daring and inspiring reinvention of one of the most successful animated feature films of all time.
Julie Taymor, one of the world’s most innovative directors, brought a vast array of disciplines to The Lion King, including extensive experience staging epic theatre and opera productions, exploring classic myths through ritualised puppetry, mask, and movement. The Lion King was the first musical Taymor directed in the commercial theatre and she made Broadway history by becoming the first woman to win the Tony Award® for Best Director of a Musical.
The Broadway show’s full creative team, which won five Tony Awards® for its work on The Lion King, reunited in 1999 to recreate the show in London. Julie Taymor and Michael Curry created hundreds of masks and puppets.
Scenic design is by British designer Richard Hudson and lighting is by Donald Holder. Costume design is by Julie Taymor, and choreography by Garth Fagan. The book was adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated feature and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the screenplay.
The original score from the animated film was expanded for the stage and now features 15 musical numbers. As well as writing completely new songs, South African composer Lebo M created an
evocative blend of African rhythms and chorales, with additional material by Julie Taymor and Mark Mancina.
Elton John and Tim Rice have added three new numbers to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score of the animated film. The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, including the Academy Award®-winning Can You Feel The Love Tonight and the haunting Shadowland.