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Disney's 'The Lion King' makes roaring comeback to Salt Lake City

Darian Sanders as Simba in Disney's "The Lion King," which opened at Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City on Friday.

Darian Sanders as Simba in Disney's "The Lion King," which opened at Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City on Friday. (Deen van Meer)


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SALT LAKE CITY — "The Lion King" is roaring back into town.

With innovative costumes and puppets, and beloved music by Elton John and Tim Rice, "The Lion King" is now one of the longest-running Broadway shows (it opened in 1997).

The bellowed Disney classic has returned, on its North American tour, to the Eccles Theatre through Oct. 23.

It's a spectacular theater experience for any age, but for many parents across the globe, "The Lion King" has been the perfect show to introduce their children to Broadway. The show was a smash hit when it came through Salt Lake City on its first national tour in August of 2010. The musical had just won six Tony Awards, including best musical.

Leo McCormick's children (ages 12 and 10 at the time) had never attended live theater.

"I asked them if they wanted to go and they didn't seem very excited about it, since they knew it had live actors and was not animated," he said. McCormick, however, took a chance and bought tickets to sit right on the aisle in the orchestra section at the Capitol Theater. *Spoiler alert – these are the perfect seats for children, as birds, giraffes and even a giant elephant came marching down the aisle toward the stage.

"They were completely shocked and blown away on how close the animals were to our seats," McCormick said. "I have seen 'The Lion King' a few more times on Broadway since then, but the show when I brought my children was my favorite experience when I was able to see the excitement and awe in their eyes."

That experience opened McCormick's children's eyes to the world of theater, and they have attended several other shows since.

Megan Gutierrez, who runs a local Utah Theater Lovers group, is surprising her two kids, ages 21 and 8, later this month. It's a special day for the family — 11 years ago is when Gutierrez's oldest daughter came to live with them. They finalized her adoption a few years later.

I can't wait to share the magic of this production with my 8-year-old. It's one of the most extraordinary theatrical experiences a child could have," she said. "As much as I love 'The Lion King' myself, I am most looking forward to watching the expression of wonder and joy on my little one's face throughout the spectacular show. And a day of theater magic is about the best possible way I can think of to celebrate the arrival of my oldest daughter in our lives."

Since its premiere on Nov. 13, 1997, on Broadway, 25 global productions of "The Lion King" have been seen by nearly 110 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, the show has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years, with four of those running 20 or more years.

Tickets to the show, which runs through Oct. 23 in Salt Lake City, are available starting at $35.50 at the Eccles Theater Box Office, by calling ArtTix at 801-355-2787, or online at Broadway-at-the-Eccles.com.

This tour of "The Lion King" will be donating nearly 1,000 tickets to the International Rescue Committee, which helps residents in countries facing humanitarian crises.

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Leigh Gibson owns every Broadway musical cast album that money can buy, and is now teaching her three kids to love musical theater. She co-hosts the "We Are Here, Broadway" YouTube channel with her husband and visits New York City at least once a year to see every new musical.

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