Arts and Humanities
6:00 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Broadway Series Brings 'Lion King' Back to Louisville

Brown Lindiwe Mkhize as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from "The Lion King" National Tour.  
Credit  Joan Marcus / Disney

Broadway in Louisville is bringing "Disney's The Lion King" back next year. The organization announced its 2014-15 season today, which opens October 7 with "I Love Lucy Live On Stage," a live re-enactment of two episodes of the iconic 1950s sitcom. All shows play in the Kentucky Center's Whitney Hall.

"The Lion King," which opened on Broadway in 1998, last played in Louisville in 2007. It's the veteran production in a season lineup composed primarily of shows that have recently launched their national tours. Aside from the "I Love Lucy" project, all of the shows in the 2014-15 season are currently running on Broadway, too.  

"I think we're getting shows much earlier in the run, because our subscriptions have been up and our single-ticket sales have been so good," says Broadway in Louisville president Leslie Broecker. "Tours are saying, 'Let's play Louisville.'"

Season subscriptions grew by 18 percent this season, a bump that could be attributed to the highly-anticipated "The Book of Mormon" production, which will close out the 2013-14 season in May. Season subscribers were given access to "The Book of Mormon" tickets before single tickets to the show went on sale. 

"Everyone's looking at [the 'Book of Mormon' bump]," says Broecker. “I think it was really the combination of shows last year. 'War Horse' certainly was a standout on the season, and 'Book of Mormon.' I’d like to think it was the ensemble, which will then help us carry forth for growth this year as well.”

The underdog story "Newsies," loosely based on the 1899 New York City newsboy strike, features a Tony Award-winning score by Alan Mencken ("Beauty and the Beast") and Jack Feldman. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, and Christopher Gattelli's choreography also won a Tony. It's adapted from the cult favorite 1992 Disney film, which starred a young Christian Bale. "Newsies" runs November 18-23. 

"It's brand-new, still on Broadway, and this will be the first year on its tour," says Broecker. "It's a big, big dance musical. When people think Broadway, they think huge production numbers, and this is it, for sure."

The acclaimed new production of "Wicked" composer Stephen Schwartz's 1972 Broadway debut “Pippin,” which won the 2013 Tony for Best Revival, is also making its national tour debut. "Pippin" will play June 2-7, 2015 in Louisville.

Directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus, the production incorporates the acrobatic circus performers of the Les 7 Doigts de la Main ensemble into Bob Fosse's choreography. 

"This re-envisioning of it, using a French circus as the chorus backdrop, and Diane Paulus directing with the Fosse style, it's a sexy, fun, incredible, give-you-goosebumps kind of musical," says Broecker. 

Another film adaptation coming to Louisville for the first time (January 20-25, 2015) is "Once." Based on the film about two Dublin-based musicians who share an artistic and romantic connection, “Once” won eight Tony Awards, including best musical, and the 2013 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album. 

"Once," which plays in the mid-sized Bernard Jacobs Theatre on Broadway, which has less than half the seating capacity of Whitney Hall. With its Irish pub set that actually doubles as a bar during intermission, the staging is intimate - the musicians are all part of the ensemble, and they remain on stage throughout the entire performance. Broecker says the touring production sizes up a bit to compensate for larger houses. 

"It'll play a little bit forward, because all of the musicians are on stage. We won't use the orchestra pit at all," says Broecker.