“The Lion King put the Orpheum in the pantheon of Broadway history. The Lion King continues running on Broadway to this day and maintains touring shows all over the world.” – Fred Krohn, former President and CEO of Historic Theatre Group.
In the summer of 1997, Disney’s The Lion King made its world premiere in Minneapolis at the Orpheum Theatre before heading to Broadway.
This exhibit celebrates the expert stagecraft of dozens of International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) members and their exceptional design and construction of sets, props, costumes, puppets and technology that brought this magical, award-winning production to life.
The Orpheum Theatre underwent an extensive remodel to accommodate the production. Additional staging areas to hold costumes props and puppets were designated, and the stage floor, including massive steel beams, was removed to create a trap room with a state-of-the-art upward spiraling hydraulic “Pride Rock” set piece for the “Circle of Life” opening sequence. Disney paid over one million dollars to make these historic alterations and restore the theatre to its original design after the run of the show.
Remarkably, few archives document the day-to-day work involved in creating this epic masterpiece, as Disney kept the pre-production under tight wraps. We are fortunate to have access to photos from long-time Orpheum Theatre Manager, Dave Marietta, and unique artifacts from Principal Wardrobe Dresser, Jennifer Anderson. Jennifer worked on the original Minneapolis show and continued to the first Broadway production at the New Amsterdam theater. After twenty-five years and countless renditions of The Lion King performed worldwide, audiences continue to enjoy the magic, splendor and stagecraft of this magnificent show.
We hope you enjoy this this backstage look at creating The Lion King.
Special thanks to Joan Pettis and Bill Devins from IATSE Local 13, and to the archives of Dave Marietta, Paula Graham and Jennifer Anderson.