CLOSEUP: 'Lion King' to include Pinoy flavor in world-class show

Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2018 07:01 AM | Updated as of Mar 12 2018 07:42 AM

MANILA - Disney's "The Lion King" promises a show as grand as its original Broadway version when it debuts in the Philippines this month -- and with additional "Filipino flavor" mixed in.

Billed as the world's number one musical, "The Lion King" is kicking off its first international tour at Solaire's The Theatre in Parañaque, with shows to be held starting March 18 until May 6.

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Props and puppets for the Manila staging of 'The Lion King' are put on display at Star Theater in Pasay, during open rehearsals for the show. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

"They'll see what everybody sees around the world," production supervisor Doc Zorthian told ABS-CBN News on the sidelines of rehearsals for the show, when asked if Filipinos can expect the same caliber of production as its Western stagings.

He then teased: "We will have little treats of Filipino flavor to it. We will tip our hats to Filipinos in it. Hopefully, we'll add some spice to it, some references, so keep an eye out for it."

These easter eggs for Pinoys are aside from the locally cast actors for the young Simba and Nala, who will be played alternately by three boys and three girls, aged eight to 11.

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Simba's coming-of-age story was first told in the Oscar-winning animated film from Disney, and since then "The Lion King" brand has endured in popularity. Its stage adaptation, which followed three years later in 1997, has been seen by over 90 million and has since raked in $8 billion in gross revenue.

That it took two decades to finally bring "The Lion King" to the Philippines is not lost on the Disney Theatrical Group. Its director for international strategy, Felipe Gamba, revealed that transporting the show here has, in fact, been years in the making.

"From the Disney point of view, Manila and the Philippines are very important market that we're tracking, not just from the theatrical side of the business but generally as the Walt Disney Company.
In the experience that we've had before, there's such a wealth of talent and just wonderful people to work with. It made sense from our point of view," he told ABS-CBN News.

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He echoed Zorthian in saying the Manila staging will deliver the same world-class experience to Filipinos, citing the attention to detail that's been a mandate since logistical work for the production started late last year.

Gamba explained: "What is specific to 'The Lion King' is that it's a very much a hand-crafted show, and the quality of it for Julie (Taymor, director) and the creative team is very important. It never should be and never is mass-produced.

"The attention to every detail, from the corset beading to the tones of the makeup, is very, very specific. To get that right, it takes a lot of work. At the heart of 'The Lion King' is about that artistry, and preserving that takes a lot of work."

With months of logistical preparations and rehearsals, Gamba expressed confidence that the company and cast have managed to achieve precisely that -- finally bringing to Filipinos the preserved "Lion King" experience from Broadway, finally after a 20-year wait.

For tickets to "The Lion King," visit TicketWorld.com.ph.