The latest rumor whirling around 42nd Street is that Disney's The Lion King is so popular, the producers are considering putting a second, simultaneous company on Broadway.
The speculative report (Nov. 21) by New York Post writer Ward Morehouse III, gives no official sources for the rumor. Lion King spokesperson Jackie Green offered this official statement from Peter Schneider, President of Walt Disney Theatrical: "We are thrilled by the success at the New Amsterdam Theatre -- and categorically deny the New York Post story."
The NY Post bases its story on a comment by an unnamed "Disney insider" that it would make "serious sense to consider a second Broadway company of the show," with no firmer commitment than that.
The newspaper also quotes a Lion King set builder at Hudson Scenic saying, "Anything's possible." He adds that Lion King would pose special problems because there are so few available theatres, and because the epic staging requires vast storage space.
Having two production of the same show on Broadway would be unusual, but not unprecedented. In November 1996, producers Fran and Barry Weissler put two Grease! companies on Broadway, one at the Eugene O'Neill, and one in limited run at City Center. According to Playbill records, in 1917, the touring company of hot ticket Maytime booked a theatre directly across West 44th Street from the original Broadway production, and the two played simultaneously. The NY Post also speculates that if the producers can't bring Lion King II to Broadway, they might ask for special clearance from Actors Equity to do extra performances each week.
As of the week ending Nov. 16 (most of which was still in previews), The Lion King sold $644,121 worth of tickets, making it the highest-grossing show on Broadway. Ticket sales have been much brisker since the opening, with daily lines in front of the New Amsterdam Theatre on West 42nd Street.
The Post notes that the $15 million musical has a $40 million advance and will open its first road company in Los Angeles in October 1998.