Second edition of RSIFF to present a myriad of local and international films

DUBAI: 25 years after its Broadway premiere, ‘The Lion King’ musical will make its Middle East debut in Abu Dhabi on November 16, giving audiences across the region a rare opportunity to appreciate the award-winning production up close and staff in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The long-running adaptation of Disney’s popular 1994 animated film tells the coming-of-age story of young lion prince Simba, who is forced to mature quickly when his father dies and he must recuperate. his birthright.

“What makes me so happy to bring the show to Abu Dhabi is that it is the original production that has been seen for over 20 years on Broadway and has been seen on stages in the West End , Australia, Hamburg, Japan. , in so many theatrical markets around the world, and we will be bringing director Julie Taymor’s extraordinary theatrical vision to local audiences for the very first time. an iconic production,” said Michael Cassel, CEO of Michael Cassel Group, the theater producer leading the four-week “Lion King” tour at the Etihad Arena, in an interview with Arab News.

“Audiences are in for an absolute treat because this is theater at its best. The way Julie Taymor – who is the original production manager and the first female director to win the Tony Award for Best Musical Director – what she imagined and the world she created by bringing the African savannah to life in a theatre, is simply extraordinary,” he added.

More than 100 people, on stage and backstage, will bring the show to Abu Dhabi. “We have artists from all over the world who are in this company of ‘The Lion King.’ It really is an international company which is very rare we have a lot of cast members from South Africa which is so important to ensure authenticity in terms of the performance and certainly also the music composed by Lebo M.” Cassel said.

The musical’s popularity is also, of course, helped by the film’s stellar soundtrack, created by Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice, but also adapted for the stage with the help of South African producer and composer Lebo M. .

Expanding on how Lebo M. was introduced to the show, Cassel said, “The way the stage production score came about was when Tom Schumacher, who is the producer of ‘The Lion King’ and President of Disney Theatrical, was in conversation with Julie Taymor to direct it, he shared with Julie an album that was released after the movie came out, and it was called ‘Rhythm of the Pride Lands’ and it featured all that ‘Lion King’ -Inspired African music composed by Lebo M.

“When Julie heard this, she had the foresight that the music – as would be needed for a Broadway show – needed to be expanded, and Lebo was hired to work on the production with Julie and with Elton John and Tim Rice. to bring some of his music to the stage. And, really, that’s now at the heart of the series.

“The music stands out in terms of representing the sounds – the rhythms – of Africa, and like I said, you know, it has the hit songs that people may know and love from the film, such as ‘ Circle of Life’ or ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, but then features haunting new songs created for the stage, such as ‘Shadowland’ and, one of my favorite songs of all time, ‘He Lives In You “, he added.

“The Lion King” runs from November 16 to December 10 at Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi.

Darcy J. Skinner