THE king of the musicals is roaring into the Mayflower, Southampton this week.
Disney’s award-winning adaptation of The Lion King is in its 15th year and has been seen by more than 70 million people worldwide.
The show uses theatrical magic, masks and puppetry to tell the story of Simba and his epic journey to reclaim his kingdom, set against the majesty of the Serengeti Plains and the rhythms of Africa.
Set to be as big an experience as the West End show, the puppets, scenery and costumes have been transported to the city in 23 trucks.
The cast of 52 is joined by a further 100 people backstage.
Stephen Crocker, director of marketing and creative services for Disney Theatrical Group, said: “It’s very, very big. A lot of people come together to make the show happen eight times a week.
“We’ve got a full-sized elephant puppet and it’s not always easy to find a place to hide it in a theatre.”
The animated film came out in 1994 and plans were put into place to make it into a musical shortly afterwards, while Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was on Broadway in New York.
“It was easy to say it would be a good thing to do but finding the right way to represent animals and African landscape on stage was harder,” said Mr Crocker.
Disney’s theatrical producer Tom Schumacher came up with the idea of working with theatre artist Julie Taymor, the eventual director.
Crocker, who describes the show as a “moving and beautiful production”, said: “She uses the whole world as her canvas and there are different techniques from Africa, America, Europe and all over the world.”
The show has been touring since 2012 and is at the Mayflower from today until September 6.
“People have been asking for so long for us to take it on tour so people in cities outside London can see the show.
“It’s really hard to do because it’s so big and we wanted to do it without compromising the skill and grandeur which makes it The Lion King.
“The reaction has been really incredible. People have been really thrilled and astonished at the skill of it and how we are bringing the West End experience to them,” added Crocker.
After seeing the show hundreds of times, Crocker says his favourite scene is the opening song, Circle of Life.
“The more you see it, the more you see in it,” he explains.
“For me it’s thrilling to watch the audience watching it for the first time; seeing people being blown away is incredible.
“It’s great to work on a show that people love to watch and that they are as passionate about as the people who are working on it.”
For tickets and information, call the Mayflower box office on 02380 711811 or visit mayflower.org.uk.