The year was 1999, and I was beyond excited to experience my first visit to New York City, and most importantly my very first Broadway show. I went with no plans. My high school classmate was attending college in the city and let me crash with him at his dorm in the Bronx. At the time, Times Square was bubbling with tourists rushing to catch all the jaw-dropping Broadway shows playing at the time. Les Mis, Phantom, Ragtime, Cats, but the highest grossing one that year was Disney’s The Lion King, so naturally it was completely sold out. My friend was not much of a Theatre lover, so after we took the train to Midtown together, he went off on his own while I decided to join the cancellation line of the show. I had heard that single tickets were tough to score, because most people would come in pairs to attempt getting seats. After about an hour in line with not much luck, the ticket booth attendant flung the window blinds open and announced to the line that he had one single ticket in the orchestra. My eyes were ready to pop out of my head. Surely, someone in front of me would snatch it, but it was my lucky day. I was the first single ticket in the line.
A few hours later, after a celebratory dance near a steaming gutter and scarfing down a couple of slices of pizza, I stood in front of the New Amsterdam Theater in awe of all its glory. The lights, the buzz of the audience members hungry for a hit musical. I felt like I was in gay heaven, even though I had never experienced it! The usher checked my ticket and escorted me to my seat, Orchestra Center E101. I will never forget that moment, walking into this huge, stunning venue, and I’m seated so close to the stage on an aisle seat. This is incredible. One of my favorite sounds in existence is the A note that the orchestra tunes their instruments to right before a performance. The show is about to start!
What happened after was a surreal experience. I was completely immersed in the magic of The Lion King, and it being my first Broadway show, it will forever live in my heart as a very special moment. One of the aspects of the production that has stuck with me to this day is the puppetry. When giant actor-controlled giraffe puppets strolled down the aisle inches away from me, my body filled with joy. The costumes, the special effects, the stunning score, the jaw-dropping performers, all created a powerful production that, 24 years later, still resonates with audiences all over the World.
Broadway San Diego will be bringing the touring production of Disney’s The Lion King to the historic Civic Center for a three-week exclusive run from August 24 through September 11. The timeless musical, based on the Disney animated film, won six Tony Awards the year it premiered, including Best Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Choreography, and Best Direction of a Musical. One of the main puzzle pieces that are essential to the success of the show is its Director and Costume Designer Julie Taymor, who still is actively involved in maintaining the integrity of the majestic play produced in nine languages across the globe.
Undoubtedly, Elton John and Tim Rice’s score are the heartbeat of the show. Songs like “Circle of Life”, “Hakuna Matata”, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” have become iconic, even in our LGBTQ community. Drag performers regularly include music from this show in their repertoire because the audience connects with them on a very personal level. That’s the power of The Lion King and its compelling soundtrack. You will leave the theater humming at least one of the catchy tunes. Also, the fabulous and imaginative costumes have also been muses to Queer performance artists throughout the years. The cultural references this show has brought to mainstream media are astounding, particularly African music, dance, art, language, and traditional attire that are brought to the forefront and celebrated in this piece.
Our humanity, sense of family, understanding of defeat, perseverance, and love for each other, are themes that resonate loudly throughout the beautiful musical. All these are messages that our LGBTQ community needs to continue preserving, nurturing, and fighting for.
So, I’m really glad that I took a gamble and stayed patiently waiting in that cancellation line at the New Amsterdam Box Office. Watching this show live, truly propelled my Musical Theatre career, and solidified my love and respect for the artform. Theatre transforms people, it brings messages that audience members need to hear or be reminded of.
If you haven’t experienced Disney’s The Lion King, this is your opportunity to leave your worries behind and have a night of Theatre with your family and loved ones, you will leave inspired and moved to keep living our lives to the fullest with one simple phrase: Hakuna Matata.
Disney’s The Lion King is presented by Broadway San Diego with performances August 24 through September 11 at the Civic Center in Downtown San Diego. Tickets and info: https://www.broadwaysd.com/upcoming-events/disneys-the-lion-king/