The Lion King Musical marked its 25th Anniversary on Broadway on Sunday, November 13, 2022. This milestone saw a special celebration hosted at the South African Consulate General in New York City on November 14th. The celebration took place in the South Africa Cultural Center of the Consulate with Lebohang Morake, popularly known as Lebo M, an integral part of The Lion King Musical, receiving a 2022 Achievement Award. A variety of people, including the original cast members of the show, attended the event. Consul General Motumisi Tawana was present at the event and shared a few words. “The Lion King event was held to celebrate the 25th of the production and to award Lebohang Morake for his contribution to the success of The Lion King on stage which introduced the sounds and culture of South Africa to the rest of the world,” he said.
Lebo M is a composer who wrote some of the music in The Lion King including the signature song “The Circle of Life.” He was present when the first show was performed in 1997. “I’m really grateful that we made it to 25 years. We thought we would only do this (The Lion King) for three years. But now we are celebrating the possibility of another 25 years,” said Lebo M, who also received a proclamation from the Mayor of Mount Vernon, Shawyn Patterson. While accepting his award, Lebo M used his speech to acknowledge South African musical legends that he said had paved the way for people like him in the US. He mentioned Hugh Masekela, Cephas Semenya, and Letta Mbulu amongst others.
The Lion King Musical cast members who were at the event gave a delightful impromptu performance that was regarded as heartwarming by those present. Lindiwe Dlamini and Ron Kunene, long time cast members, attended the event. “They say I have made history because I am the only person who has been in the same show for 25 years straight on Broadway. So many people have come and gone in the show,” said Dlamini. “I’m so privileged in this show that I get to sing in my own language. I bring my culture to Broadway in New York.”
The Lion King Musical is the third longest-running show on Broadway. It has been so successful that it has been imported to other cities and continents. It has been performed on every continent except Antarctica. There will be a production in the United Arab Emirates this year, the first time the Lion King Musical will be performed in the Middle East. According to the New York Times, the musical has seen 27 productions, filled 112 million seats, and grossed nearly $10 billion, a testament to the musical’s enormous success.
To further celebrate the anniversary of the Lion King Musical, the South African Consulate General will present a Lion King Exhibition from November 15, 2022, to January 11, 2023 at the South African Cultural Center located inside the Consulate office. Masks and costumes from the Lion King Musical will be on display as part of the exhibition. The exhibition will be open from Monday to Friday by appointment only and admission will be free.
*Photos courtesy of the South African Consulate.
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