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on July 6, 2005
It's a story that rips off everything from HAMLET to one of Japan's favorite animated films. The original score was basically a redo of music from a different film (Hans Zimmer and Lebo M. previously collaborated on THE POWER OF ONE). The songs were by a great singer/songwriter who hadn't ever written a musical, and a lyricist who appeared to have had his best days behind him. And yet, when THE LION KING opened in theaters in 1994, it blew everyone away.

When Disney announced it would hire famed puppet theater director Julie Taymor to adapt the show for Broadway, a collective intake of breath could be heard around the world. Theater enthusiasts felt Taymor was selling out. Disneyphiles worried that the beloved story would be bloated beyond recognition. And the kids? Well, they just couldn't figure out how Simba would get off the screen and onto the stage.

The rest, as they say, is history. Disney's THE LION KING broke all records on Broadway (until THE PRODUCERS, years later), won a record number of Tonys and continues to play to packed houses both on tour and on the Great White Way.

What makes it work? An amazing collaboration between Taymor, Zimmer, Lebo M., John, Rice, and a few others. Where it lacks percussive power due to the nature of a theater orchestra, it makes up in emotional resonance and an increased emphasis on the deep feelings invoked by the story.

The familiar songs from the film are present, although Rafiki is no longer Robert Guillame's wily old baboon. Rafiki is now an extremely wise (though she occasionaly plays the fool) female baboon with some of the best lines, and certainly several of the best vocal moments in the entire show.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with surprising contributions from Samuel Wright (better known as Sebastian the Crab from THE LITTLE MERMAID) as Mufasa. Jason Raize, Heather Hadley, Max Cassella, and the rest of the cast bring the film characters to life (on stage through a combination of puppets, masks, etc.).

What sets the show apart, however, is the "new" stuff included in the songlist. Most of the "new" songs are adaptions of instrumental selections from the score ("Under the Stars" from the film becomes "Endless Night," "This Land," is now Nala's beautiful "Lea Halalelah") or songs written by Lebo M. and Mark Mancina for Disney's follow-up album to the original soundtrack, RETURN TO PRIDE ROCK. The best of these is "He Lives in You," which is heard first as sung by Mufasa, and later by the entire company.

Scar, the hyenas, and Zazu each get their own song (Scar's is a clever way of explaining quickly why Scar gets a little loopy in the story, while the hyenas have a rocking tune about chewing little lion cubs up). Zazu's was so popular it was animated and added to the SPECIAL EDITION of THE LION KING first released in Imax theaters and later on DVD.

The additional songs celebrating African culture and heritage (Rafiki's chants, the Lioness Hunt song, and "One by One") all take the story from contemporary Hollywood studio to traditional African story. It's a huge shift that works because of the awesomeness of the performers.

This is not the animated film soundtrack--it is a deeper listening experience that takes the discerning listener (child or adult) to places that most shows can't (or won't).

It's an idea that should not have worked...but to all our benefits (Disneyphiles, theater lovers, and young at heart), we are definitly thankful it did.
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on September 12, 1999
If you're thinking of not buying this CD because you already have the movie soundtrack, HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! Not only does the Original Broadway Cast Recording have more songs than there are in the movie, but the original songs have been adapted and, in some cases, lengthened quite a lot. To be honest, there are a few poor attempts of "filler" and trying to add something with a rock edge, but the beautiful, rhythmic african chants and additions such as "Shadowland" and "Endless Night" bring tears to my eyes. They're worth paying for the entire thing. This CD gives you more of an emotional look at all of the characters and their despair. Disney followed the same trend they did with BEAUTY by adding a dozen songs with only a couple worth listening to, but they're tear jerkers and if you just sit back and listen to the chants and ballads, they're sure to touch your heart as they did mine... just skip the stuff in between. But it's a MUST HAVE for anyone even SLIGHTLY interested. Cuz I'm not even a Lion King Movie fan.
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on May 9, 2000
In my opinion, The Lion King is one of the best stories out there. I love the movie and the play. The play's soundtrack is better than the movie's though. With songs that were not even in the movie (The Morning Report, Endless Night, They Live In You, etc) this soundtrack seems more complete. All of the songs featured are incredible. They all have a certain amount of pep that can cheer me up after a hard day. All of the artists featured are incredibley gifted and are going somewhere as far as Broadway goes. I highly reccommend this to anyone who loves The Lion King as much as I do.
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on November 27, 1999
First of all, to address some of the other reviewers who didn't believe "The Lion King" deserved the Tony: What the American Theatre Wing recognized is an historic and important step in theatre history. "The Lion King" on Broadway didn't attempt to merely transfer the cartoon images of the movie onto the stage (a la Beauty and the Beast). Instead, through the guidance of genius director and designer Julie Taymor, the glorious story was lifted and transformed through mask, puppetry, and dance into a multi-disciplinary wonder. I'm a professional puppeteer, and the response of the puppetry community to this show is staggering. Curriculums are being reworked, new parterships are forming, and a puppetry renaissance has begun.
Now, onto this CD: I can understand that if you haven't seen the staged version, you wouldn't expect to hear the changes that have been made to the soundtrack. Fortunately, I was given the CD "Rhythm of the Pridelands" before seeing the show. Many of the new songs are from that album, which was new music inspired by the movie "Lion King" and written by Lebo M, the talented African artist whose voice you hear in the movie version of "Circle of Life." This soundtrack is a unique and exciting blending of the original soundtrack and "Pridelands," and has an organic and harmonious feel to it. The new African chants serve to balance the more cutesy tunes from the movie. In the end, there is something for everyone. Listen without prejudice, and discover the beauty of the music.
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on February 18, 2002
The broadway musical "The Lion King" is a combination of incredible musical talent and vocal performance. That is why it would be sad NOT to buy this cd. If you have seen the animated version of Lion King release by Disney, you will find all the great songs like "Just can't wait to be king" and "Circle of life" (here comes the lion). Yet in addition will find a very fun song in which the hyenas sing about there soon coming meal of Simba and Nala. Also included on the cd are fun versions of "The Lion Sleeps tonight" as well as songs found on Disney's sequel to "The Lion King", called "Simba's Pride". All the great ones and some new ones are found. If you have a choice between buying the original soundtrack and the broadway musical the Broadway version. The music is better and the vocal talent incredible!
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on January 30, 1999
The first time I saw The Lion King I was 13 and excited about seeing the new Disney flick. In fact, the movie soundtrack was the first CD I'd ever bought. Needless to say I was thrilled when I heard that there was a musical in the works. It was such a beautiful story and I thought it would make a lovely transition onto the stage. Even as I write this, I'm listening to Shadowland, one of the most powerful and chilling songs I've ever heard. I have both soundtracks and I find myself going back to this one more often. It goes further with its vision of the African savana whereas the first just hinted at. The first included pop hooks by Elton John which needed to be removed from this album in order for the project to work. Everytime I listen to this, I'm transported from my little town into the heart of Africa. It is such a peaceful and soothing piece of work. Buy it if you love the movie.
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on February 24, 1999
I bought this CD at the Disney Store in the New Amsterdam Theatre right after seeing the Lion King stage play. I already had the original soundtrack from the movie, but the Broadway Cast version adds some songs and changes other originals. The voices of these actors are incredible. If anyone ever gets the chance to go to New York - see the stage performance and buy the CD - then you can relieve the most amazing production of our time over and over again!
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on March 4, 2010
I have the original CD, but wanted the DVD that came with this issue. Not disappointed! Worth it for LK lovers.
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on June 27, 2006
This is the most jaw dropping musical ever! Anyone would love it. If I could I would give it 10 stars! It would be something you would treasure forever. So don't waste your time finding other CD'S, just ask for The Lion King-broadway cast recording. I garrantee that kids and adults would enjoy this as much as I did.
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The kids love it! I was happily surprised to see that lyrics are included (including Rafiki's Swahili lyrics with translations to English). This added a new perspective of the production that I could reflect on, but it was really a gift for the kids. They loved seeing The Lion King live and this was the same CD being sold after the show without the line... and the bonus behind the scenes footage is pretty cool.
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