Book Review: “The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway”

Hi everyone!

We received the book The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway to review. The book is by Julie Taymor, who famously took on direction of the new show 20 years ago, becoming the first woman to win a Tony for best musical. What I didn’t realize upon receipt was that this isn’t a new book. Jeff has the 1998 version, which seems to be almost the same except for the foreward and the quality of the book. There could be some other differences, but overall it is very similar.

Just as with The Lion King (Celebrating The Lion King’s 20th Anniversary on Broadway): Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World (my review is here), The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway is divided into several chapters. In this book, they are called acts. Julie Taymor writes the new foreward, titled “Twenty Years Later”. One line in it really envelops the concept of this foreward: “The idea and reality that theater is there to bring people through some of life’s toughest challenges and conflicts had made an impression on me twenty-five years earlier…” – the sentence continues, but overall she talks about the power of theater for healing and as a “weapon for peace”. It is a powerful few pages.
 
Proucer Thomas Schumacher takes on the next few pages in his introduction, which includes a little about how The Lion King came to fruition on Broadway and about Julie Taymor.
 
Before going further in about the content of the The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway, I just wanted to mention that the pages have a nice quality and weight to them. It feels like almost a matte style finish, with possible extra texture on some borders. Turning the pages is just an extra pleasant experience.
 
“Act 1” of the three chapters is Conceptualization. Taymor starts with her first contact – via a phone call – from Schumacher about bringing The Lion King to Broadway. The chapter goes onto detail what went into taking the story to Broadway, and developing it with her own style while keeping it true to what the audience would expect. There is a nice amount of concept art and photos, including animals and masks. 
 
“Act 2” is Development. At this point, it was unknown if the show would make it to Broadway. Taymor talks about different aspects of development, including that she chose to go for puppets for Timon and Pumbaa instead of masks. There is a lot of concept art through this chapter, along with photos – the photos include the Pumbaa and Timon puppets during rehearsals (and on stage for Timon with actor Max Casella behind him). The elephant graveyard staircase is discussed, and shown in both concept and reality.
 
“Act 3” is Performance. Much of this chapter is about the rehearsals, but also challenges like the elephant staircase. The actors had rehearsed it without the moving set piece and the way it was performed had to be changed. And the writing in the book closes with a page that talks about closing the show in Minneapolis and heading to Broadway. The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway is really more about it leading up to Broadway, where The Lion King (Celebrating The Lion King’s 20th Anniversary on Broadway): Twenty Years on Broadway and Around the World  talks both about development but also after the show arrived on Broadway.
 
This is a very nicely detailed book about the development of the much beloved show. The book is smaller than The Lion King (Celebrating The Lion King’s 20th Anniversary on Broadway), but still clocks in at just about 200 pages.
 
This review includes affliate links.