When Elton John Surprised at ‘Lion King’ Anniversary Show

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The stats are staggering: 100+ million audience members worldwide; 70 major theater awards internationally; 25 global productions; Broadway’s third-longest running show. And that’s just for the stage production of Disney’s The Lion King.

The production celebrated its 20th anniversary on the Great White Way with a rare Sunday night performance, on Nov. 5, 2017. Most Broadway shows are “dark” on Sunday nights (and Monday nights) as the rigors of a live stage production night after night, plus matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays, take their toll on the cast and crew.

But for the big event, Disney pulled out all the stops. As Disney on Broadway, the company’s live theatrical division, notes, “Tonight we celebrated 20 years on Broadway with some of our closest family and friends, including Julie Taymor and the entire creative team, over 100 cast alumni and a surprise performance…”

That surprise performance was, as you know by now, from the one and only Sir Elton John. The musician, of course, wrote the majority of the music for the show, teaming with lyricist Tim Rice. Those songs include “Hakuna Matata,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life.”

After an out-of-town tryout in Minneapolis, Minn., the show began previews on Broadway on Oct. 15, 1997, at the New Amsterdam Theater. Opening night was November 13. The show earned a somewhat modest six Tony Awards in 1998, including Best Musical. (Hamilton won 11 Tonys in 2016.) In 2006, the production moved to the Minskoff Theatre, where it still reigns.

At the 20th anniversary celebration, the crowd roared its approval.

Watch John’s surprise performance on Nov. 5, 2017

With 9763 performances as of Nov. 5, 2022, The Lion King trails just Chicago (10,146 performances) and The Phantom of the Opera (13,789) as Broadway’s longest-running shows of all-time. (For the record, Cats, with 7,485, and Wicked, with 7,289 round out the Top 5.) Tickets to The Lion King are available here.

Related: Review of Elton John in Vegas

Elton John was born on March 25, 1947. Tickets to his farewell tour are available here and here.


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