At the June 13 opening of The Lion King in Shanghai, China, the musical's Tony-winning director and designer, Julie Taymor, revealed that she has added a new character to the production, according to Variety.
Taymor said she has incorporated a mischievous monkey in order to make the international hit musical more relevant to the audiences in China. “It is the first time we have brought in a new character,” Taymor told the industry paper. “And it is the year of the monkey after all.”
The premiere of The Lion King’s Mandarin-language production is presented at Walt Disney Grand Theatre, a new 1,200-seat Broadway-style theatre located in Shanghai Disney Resort.
The Mandarin production marks the ninth language for the long-running Broadway musical, which debuted November 13, 1997. For this production, Disney auditioned in more than a dozen cities in China and Asia to put together a cast of more than 50 performers. The multi-national cast ranges from newcomers to seasoned professionals, with talent from Shanghai and across China, plus 10 South African performers.
“It is especially exciting for us to premiere at the purpose-built theatre at the Shanghai Disney Resort, marking our first collaboration with our partners at Disney Parks and Resorts,” said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer, Disney Theatrical Productions, in an earlier statement. ”This uniquely Chinese production will be our most ambitious yet, featuring the very best of local talent, who will perform the show for the first time in Mandarin as they bring Julie Taymor’s singular theatrical vision to life.”
In 1998 Taymor became the first woman to ever win the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for her work on The Lion King; she also won the Best Costume Design Tony that same year. The musical won a total of six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. In New York, the musical continues at the Minskoff Theatre.