Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ roars into TPAC

Nashville’s most eagerly awaited stage production ever will leap onto the Andrew Jackson Hall stage from Thursday, Oct. 26, to Sunday, Dec. 3.

This Nashville engagement is currently one of seven productions running worldwide along with New York, a second U.S. National Tour, London, Hamburg, Tokyo and Shanghai. A Korean-language production will open this October in Seoul, South Korea, and a production will open in June 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa.         

“The idea of the circle of life speaks in a universal language that people the world over can relate to,” said actor Ben Lipitz who has been portraying Pumbaa in the touring company for the past three and a half years. “It's a lot of fun because Pumbaa is one of the most beloved characters not only in the “Lion King” but also throughout history.”

Now in its ninth sold-out year in New York at the New Amsterdam Theatre, “The Lion King” is the winner of six Tony Awards including best musical, eight drama desk awards, six Outer Critics Circle Awards, the New York Drama Critics award for best musical, the Evening Standard Award for the theatrical event of the year, two Olivier Awards, a Theatre World Award, the Astaire Award for outstanding choreography, two Drama League Awards, and a Grammy Award for best musical show album.

In addition to a number of other special events scheduled around the production of “The Lion King,” about twenty members of the cast will participate in a special one night only Cabaret-style show entitled “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” at Ingram Hall in the Blair School of Music on Monday, Nov. 20, to benefit Nashville CARES and the Comprehensive Care Center (CCC).

“I think it will be one of our more exciting benefits,” offered Lipitz, who is also producing the benefit. “We are always happy to help with outreach like this because it is a very important cause that does some very important work.”

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” will include an eclectic mix of singers doing covers of pop, rock, R&B, dance numbers and comedy along with the promise of a few surprise celebrity guest stars from the Nashville music scene.

“It's been very humbling and exciting to be a part of all this,” said Lipitz. “It's energizing and exhausting all at once, but it’s ultimately very rewarding.

Director Julie Taymor, along with Michael Curry, created hundreds of masks and puppets for “The Lion King.” Choreography is by Garth Fagan, scenic design is by Richard Hudson, costume design is by Julie Taymor and lighting design is by Donald Holder. The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated film and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the screenplay for “The Lion King.” The score features Elton John and Tim Rice's music from the animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice, additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer.

“People will not just be entertained. They will be moved in a profound way by the spectacle of the show,” Lipitz offered.

Tickets for “The Lion King” range from $27-78, depending upon performance times and seat locations. VIP ticket packages are available for $128 each, and include special services at the theater.

For tickets, visit the TPAC Box Office (Downtown or at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in The Mall at Green Hills), online at http://www.tpac.org/, or any Ticketmaster outlet. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 615/255-ARTS (2787). For information on offers for groups of 20 or more, call TPAC Group Sales at 615/782-4060.

SPECIAL NOTE: Latecomers will be seated during intermission. Please allow extra time to arrive at TPAC so you won't miss a moment.

TPAC’s adult education program, InsideOut, has planned a series of lectures, workshops and seminars in conjunction with “The Lion King,” many of which are free of charge. Space is limited for these public events, so call 615/687-4291 to RSVP or visit www.tpac.org/education for a full schedule.

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