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Disney’s THE LION KING ended a record-breaking season at Sunderland Empire on Saturday 6 May having performed to over 100,000 audience members during the production’s second visit to the city.

The show broke box office records for the highest single day of ticket sales at Sunderland Empire, beating its own record set back in 2014 by the first UK & Ireland tour of THE LION KING.

The internationally acclaimed production opened in Sunderland on Thursday 16 March and included four access performances including a relaxed performance for those with sensory needs. It played its last show at Sunderland Empire on Saturday 6 May 2023 before moving onto Bristol, Birmingham and Dublin.

Marie Nixon, Theatre Director at Sunderland Empire said; "It's always such a joy welcoming Disney into our venue and this 8-week run of THE LION KING has been incredibly special for everyone involved. The reaction to this production in 2014 was so phenomenal it's hard to believe that this run would break those Box Office records and audience numbers, but appetite has been truly overwhelming. We are greatly looking forward to Disney's return next February for the first ever UK Tour of ALADDIN and encourage audiences to book as soon as possible to ensure they catch this breathtaking spectacle!"

Ian Thomas, Destination Director, NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) said; “Headline productions such as THE LION KING are vital contributors to our region’s visitor offer, attracting huge attention and over 100,000 visitors – which in turn boosts the wider hospitality, retail, transport and accommodation businesses, overall growth of the visitor economy and creates jobs.

As the first Destination Development Partnership in England, NGI really values fantastic cultural assets such as the Sunderland Empire. These venues attract national and international visitors to our region and will help us achieve our ambition of doubling the size of our visitor economy over the next 10 years”.

The recent season of THE LION KING at Sunderland Empire follows a hugely successful season of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in January 2022 and the upcoming North-East premiere of ALADDIN, which opens on 15 February 2024.

The story of THE LION KING leaps into life using spectacular masks, puppets and costumes to tell the story of Simba's epic adventures, as he struggles with the responsibilities of adulthood and becoming king.

Julie Taymor’s internationally celebrated stage adaptation of THE LION KING opened on Broadway in 1997 and 25 global productions in nine different languages have been created since then (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese). THE LION KING is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher.

The previous tour of THE LION KING broke attendance records across the nation, including at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. Since the UK premiere in 1999, THE LION KING London has entertained more than 18 million theatregoers and is the sixth longest-running West End musical of all time.

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 savanna 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.


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