Le Roi Lion, as it is called in French, had its opening performance in front of a starry audience who gave the company an instant standing ovation at the musical's conclusion. For this French-language premiere, several members of the original creative team — including Julie Taymor (director and designer), Tim Rice (lyricist) and Lebo M (additional lyrics and music) — were in attendance.
Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Company, and Thomas Schumacher, President of Disney Theatrical Productions, were also in the audience. Speaking of the French production, Thomas Schumacher said, "It's interesting and thrilling to watch it here because the theatre is so intimate. Here, the style of acting also feels more intimate and I like that a great deal. The cast is wonderful to look at and gorgeous to listen to. I find them very compelling."
The French company features Zama Magudulela as Rafiki, Jee-L as Mufasa, Olivier Breitman as Scar, Jérémy Fontanet as Simba, Léah Vincent as Nala, David Eguren as Zazu, Christian Abart as Timon and Fabrice de la Villehervé as Pumbaa. The company is an interesting mix of performers, mostly from France but also from South Africa, Cameroon, Kenya, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Italy and Belgium.
The Elton John-Tim Rice musical is performed in French. Lyrics and dialogue have been adapted by Stéphane Laporte, who earned a Molière nomination (the French equivalent of a Tony Award) for his work on the French adaptation of Fiddler On the Roof two seasons ago.
Stage Entertainment France, a subsidiary of Stage Entertainment, produces the show. With Kander and Ebb's Cabaret (featuring the Sam Mendes staging) currently running at the Folies Bergère, The Lion King is Stage Entertainment France's second venture into the Parisian theatre world. The Lion King originally opened at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre Nov. 13, 1997. Directed by Julie Taymor — who became the first woman to ever receive a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical — the musical has become an international hit with productions playing all around the globe. In fact, the Elton John-Tim Rice musical has won over 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 Lion King offers performances Tuesday-Friday evenings at 8 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 3 and 8 PM. Tickets, priced €25-€99, are available by calling 338 20 88 87 86. Visit www.leroilion.fr for more information.
Stéphane Ly-Cuong is a Paris-based freelance writer and director.