Another big musical with cats as central characters may be headed for Broadway. Daily Variety reports that Disney is eyeing its hit animated film "The Lion King" as the latest candidate to inaugurate the renovated New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street in New York.
How to make the assorted lions, meerkats, wildebeests and jackals come to life on the stage? Jeremy Gerard reported that Disney has hired avant garde director and designer Julie Taymor to find innovative ways to solve the production's central challenges.
Taymor was recipient of a 1991 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" for her work, which has included "The King Stag" and "Juan Darien."
With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, the animated film won the Best Song Oscar for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." In telling the story of a lion prince whose uncle usurps the throne, "Lion King" takes the outline of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" throws in a dash of "Henry IV," and supplies a happy ending.
The success of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" in New York, Los Angeles, Australia and Japan was credited by Variety as the impetus for Disney's expanding menu of theatre projects. Renovation of the New Amsterdam -- intended to serve as headquarters of the Disney legitimate theatre effort -- is underway. Reopening has been tentatively scheduled for early 1997. "Lion King" is at least the third project announced as a possible curtain-raiser for the New Amsterdam: others have included an adaptation of Disney's "Mary Poppins," and an original musical adaptation of "Aida" by "Lion King" composer Elton John.