After the record-breaking success of its Manchester run, Disney’s legendary musical, ‘The Lion King’ is back in the North West.
For just seven weeks the West End spectacular roars into the Liverpool Empire on May 17.
And Stephen Crocker, head of Marketing and Creative Services at Disney, is looking forward to the next stop of the tour.
He says: “The response has been amazing since we went to Manchester; it was ludicrously triumphant”
It was just a year and a half ago that the tour opened and continued around the UK, complete selling out and breaking records everywhere.
“It’s really exciting,” says Stephen, “and most important is having local audiences embrace the show and celebrating the fact that it’s in their local theatre.”
“Generally, which I found rally interesting, in the West End the show is pretty much always sold out with a very responsive audience.
“But of course in the West End you have a lot of tourists, as well as Londoners so there’s never a consistent dynamic because there’s such a mix of people.
“But when you’re playing in Manchester or Liverpool for instance, everyone is from that area and everyone behaves in a certain kind of way, so you get much more of a feeling of what people in that city are like – not that I want to generalise!
“But audiences in the North are incredibly warm and responsive to the comedy and the drama in the show which is really fantastic”
The touring production is the biggest musical production ever to tour the UK.
With hundreds of masks, puppets and more than 700 elaborate costumes representing 26 different types of animal, 23 giant trucks are used to transport everything across the country.
Stephen says, “Touchwood everything has gone really smoothly.
“It’s such an enormous show and moving it from one city to another is an absolutely Herculean task and that’s something I always find remarkable.
“The logistics of how it all fits backstage, because having it on stage is one thing, is where it gets really tricky but everyone is getting better and better at adapting.
“The show is just so enormous we have trouble fitting it in sometime.”
“Thankfully that’s the only thing we’ve found tricky so it’s all going beautifully.”
A fleet of 23 trucks will be utilised to transport the titanic production to Liverpool but Stephen is looking forward to getting back to the Empire theatre.
He says: “We ran for 21 weeks in Manchester, and we could have run twice as long as that, but we did 21 weeks and the final 7 weeks were sold out before we got to them.
“We’re only in Liverpool for seven and a half weeks which is a fraction of the Manchester run and then we’re off to Southampton, Sunderland and Cardiff.
He adds: “We opened our tour of Beauty and The Beast at the Liverpool Empire back in 2001 which was actually my first thing that I worked on with Disney.
“It’s an incredible theatre and the show is just going to look incredible in there.
“The Empire has 500 more seats than the Palace in Manchester – it’s a big, big theatre – so the show is just going to be stunning in there.
“Not to give anything away, but because the show expands past the stage, when you’re in a bigger auditorium the show just gets bigger and better.
And Stephen isn’t the only one returning to the city.
Merseyside’s own Ava Brennan will continue her role as Simba’s love-interest and lifelong friend, Nala.
“Ava is really looking forward to spending some time in her home city,” says Stephen.
“She started out playing the role in Germany, speaking German, which is kind of random, and then played in London and is now travelling around on the tour.
“She’s incredibly talented and lovely girl so it’s great that she gets to play to a home crowd.”
The acclaimed stage adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated film was first seen on Broadway in 1997, where it recently celebrated its 16th anniversary.
The production has now been seen by over 70 million people across five continents and the acclaimed West End production continues to sell out at London’s Lyceum Theatre in its 15th triumphant year.
Stephen says the cast as a whole have really embraced visiting some of the biggest cities in the world - and why wouldn’t they?
He says, “Because the show has such an international company – there are 18 different countries represented in the cast – some of them have had experience of touring, some haven’t, and some hadn’t even set foot in the UK before, so it’s been and interesting experience for everybody involved.
“They are touring around the country in the biggest and most successful tour there has ever been in the country.
“They’re playing to sold-out audiences and standing ovations every night
“It isn’t the worst job in the world now is it?”
Tickets are available to buy online at www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/ or by calling 0844 871 3017.