An advertisement for The Lion King musical shown outside of the Minskoff Theatre in New York City.

Photo credit: ValeStock / Shutterstock

The Lion King is a true powerhouse of success; it’s a book, a Disney movie, and an award-winning Broadway musical. While most people are familiar with the story of Simba growing up to reclaim his father’s kingdom, they know it from the Disney movie. Fewer people have had the privilege of seeing the musical, though.

To date, over 85 million people have come to see the live rendition of The Lion King. It is the first show in Broadway history to cumulatively gross more than $1 billion. That’s pretty incredible considering that the Phantom of the Opera, which has been running since 1988, doesn’t even come close to that.

Over its history, The Lion King has won over 30 major awards since its original touring that started in 1997. Even though it’s a Broadway musical, believe it or not, it didn’t actually debut in NYC. Its first showing took place at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

But aside from being a financial triumph, it is also a cultural icon. There are six different African languages spoken in the show, including: Swahili, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, and Congolese. The costumes, which honor African garment, won a Tony Award in 1998. In this play, some of the costumes extend up to 18 feet tall! Namely, these costumes are the giraffes in the number Just Can’t Wait to be King.

The director of the most recent North American tour, Julie Taymor, was the first woman to receive a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical. On this tour, Taymor felt that there was not a strong enough female character, so she changed Rafiki into a female. This character was given a larger role in the play than in the movie. The Lion King is currently the third longest running musical in history.