The opening night of The Lion King's Abu Dhabi limited season at Etihad Arena is fast approaching. The four-week run starts on November 16, ends December 10, and is gearing up to blow audiences away with its timeless tale complemented by jaw-dropping musical performances and award-winning costumes.
Ahead of the show rolling into town, the team at Proactiv Entertainment, the international event organisers responsible for bringing The Lion King to the region, has shared five fascinating facts even the show's biggest fans might not know.
1. To recreate the animal-like movements, more than 200 puppets – rod puppets, shadow puppets, and full-sized puppets – are used throughout the performance, with it taking a combined 37,000 hours to build them all. The tallest animal puppets used in the show are the four 5.5-metre exotic giraffes from "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", while the two giraffes in "Circle of Life" are slightly shorter at 4.3m. Two actors trained in stilt-walking climb ladders to fit inside the puppets, before mounting stilts and crossing the stage. The smallest animal puppet is the trick mouse at the end of Scar's cane, measuring just 12 centimetres.
2. More than 25 animals, birds, fish, and insects are represented throughout the show. These include 39 hyenas and a whopping 52 wildebeest, making them the animals most spotted during the show. Eagle-eyed guests can also expect to catch glimpses of elephants, cheetahs, zebras, and antelopes.
3. While the international show has been translated into eight languages including Japanese and Spanish, the script itself includes six indigenous African languages that remain untranslated. These languages include Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Congolese, and the click language Xhosa. For those familiar with the phrase "hakuna matata" (no worries), congratulations – you already know two words of Swahili.
4. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, The Lion King is the recipient of more than 70 significant awards, including six at the 1998 Tony Awards. In winning Best Direction of a Musical, Julie Taymor became the first female to receive the honour.
5. The most complicated set piece is the Pride Rock, which appears five times during each performance. A huge and ancient rock formation located in the vast Pride Lands, Pride Rock is one of the key settings in the story. The battery-powered set piece expands out to 45cm wide at its fullest position onstage and compresses to 20cm when it is not in use.