Be prepared to hand over an extra $5 for orchestra seats to the Tony winning musical The Lion King -- if, of course, you can get orchestra seats. Spokesperson Chris Boneau confirmed (Aug. 11) that top tickets for the Julie Taymor-directed musical rose from $75 to $80 on Aug. 10.
He also said the price hike was almost moot for the next year, since all but roughly two percent of Lion King's orchestra seats are sold out from now through October 1999 (that's not a typo, it's 1999). In fact, only 8-10 percent of the rest of the house is available from now to then. Boneau didn't yet know when a new block of tickets would be put onsale.
"The $80 tickets put Lion King in line with Cabaret and Rent," Boneau said. "So if you're lucky enough, say, to get a cancellation on Lion King, it's $5 more." Boneau also noted that the Disney musical had already raised its top to $80 during the previous holiday season, "which isn't an uncommon thing to do."
In other Lion King news, Tsidii Le Loka and the other South African actors who lend a distinctive and flavorful edge to Disney's musical will be allowed to stay with the production as long as they like. Actors' Equity, the performers union, has granted the visitors leave to remain with the show indefinitely. Equity originally approved a 20-week stay for the six South Africans. Last fall, however, Disney Theatrical Production petitioned the union for an extension of the performers' tenure. Lebo M, director Julie Taymor and Disney executive Peter Schneider argued before Equity council that the actors drove the show and that their voices possessed a unique quality difficult to teach. Equity allowed an extension until June 30, 1998, but with the proviso that Disney hold workshops to train American actors in South African dialect. These trainees were intended eventually to replace the South Africans.
Since then, The Lion King has opened to great acclaim, and the African performers -- in particular, Tsidii Le Loka, who opens the show as Rafiki, the baboon shaman -- have become some of the show's more popular and visible performers. With the deadline of the extension approaching, Disney once again attested to the six singers' unique contribution, and Equity decided that they should be allowed to stay with the Broadway production. Classes instructing Americans in the disciplines of the South African roles will continue. Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg was on vacation and unavailable for comment.