In her original idea, Taymor said, "[Simba] doesn't go back [to the jungle to become king] at all. That never happened… [Instead], he goes to the desert. And in the desert, he comes out of the jungle… And he sees Vegas."
At the mention of Las Vegas, the audience burst into laughter, according to Time magazine.
"No, seriously!" Taymor explained, adding that she also hoped to add a new character to the storyline, the villainous Papa Croc, who had made a deal with Scar to purchase all the water in the land that would then be funneled to create the desert oasis that is now known as Las Vegas.
"And here comes Simba the wild beast from the jungle, and he falls for Papa Croc because he doesn’t have a father," Taymor continued. The musical's ending would have featured Simba fighting other animals in a gladiator show in the Coliseum.
The head of Disney Theatrical vetoed this idea, and Taymor created the musical that went on to win numerous accolades, including the Tony Award for Best Musical. "It was the right thing that happened in this collaboration,” Taymor said, “which is he knew we don’t need to go that far, but I figured out how to do the animal and the human."
The hit musical was the first show in Broadway history to pass $1 billion in cumulative gross, a threshold also crossed by the North American tour and, most recently, the Hamburg Lion King production.
The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice's music from "The Lion King" animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from "Rhythm of the Pride Lands," an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.
The book was adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed "The Lion King" animated feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film's screenplay. Other members of the creative team include Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Michael Ward (hair and makeup design), John Stefaniuk (associate director), Marey Griffith (associate choreographer), Clement Ishmael (music supervisor).
Directed by Taymor — who became the first woman to ever receive a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical — The Lion King has become an international hit with productions playing around the globe. In fact, the Elton John-Tim Rice musical has won more than 30 major awards. Those include six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical; eight Drama Desk Awards; six Outer Critics Circle Awards; two Sir Laurence Oliviers; the Evening Standard Award for Best Theatrical Event; and three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.
The Minskoff Theatre is located at 200 W. 45th St.