Matthew Shiner has spent the last 2½ years on the road, touring with “Disney’s The Lion King.”
“The Lion King,” which opened on Broadway in 1997 and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning six, including best musical, remains a hot ticket on Broadway. It is Broadway’s third-longest-running show in history and the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time, having grossed more than $1 billion.
There have also been 25 touring versions of “The Lion King.” Shiner has served as stage manager on two tours, a U.S. national tour that ended last summer, and another U.S. national tour that began last fall in Syracuse, N.Y.
That show arrives at the Moran Theater in The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday for the first of 16 performances. “The Lion King” last came to the Moran Theater a decade ago for a six-week engagement.
The last decade has seen “upgrades in technology,” which have enabled producers to “spruce the show up,” Shiner said. There will be new costumes, upgraded scenery and a new energy to the show, he said.
In the time between the end of the last tour and the beginning of the current tour there was the “briefest of pauses,” Shiner said, as they spent eight weeks building new sets and creating new costumes.
The cast of the new tour, which observed the 20th anniversary of the show’s Broadway opening on Nov. 13, is a mixture of performers from the last tour and newcomers. There’s even one performer who was previously part of a touring version in Germany, Shiner said.
His challenge is that it is “a large, complicated show” to produce. There are 115 people who travel with the show, “not including spouses, children and pets.”
Shiner’s assistant travels with her two daughters. He travels with his dog, a miniature pinscher.
“The show is big,” he said. “It’s not just actors on stage but actors dressed as elephants … You are trying to pull off this big spectacle.”
Shiner has been a stage manager for 27 years. But until he joined “The Lion King” 2½ years ago, he’d been New York-based. Touring is a new experience for him.
“I’m finding this is a great adventure,” he said. “Life on the road is waking up in the morning and asking yourself what city I’m in. But it’s been quite fun. What I love about this is I get to see a new city every few weeks. I explore things. Check out new restaurants. I love seeing America.”
When he’s not out exploring a new city, he’s playing games.
“I travel with a video game system,” he said.
Before coming to Jacksonville, the show spent three weeks in Atlanta. Once the two-week stay in Jacksonville ends, it will be on to Orlando for four weeks.
The musical is based on the 1994 animated movie “The Lion King,” which won two Academy Awards and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It tells the story of Simba, a young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands. Mufasa is murdered and Simba, thinking he was responsible, flees into exile. Eventually he is convinced to return and challenge his corrupt uncle Scar.
The animated movie was not a musical although Hans Zimmer won an Academy Award for best original score. Elton John wrote the music and Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for the songs in the musical “The Lion King.”
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413