Bringing the Animal World to a Historical Stage

Posted on February 2, 2015


By: Ashley Dill


The Memphis Orpheum Theatre will host the award winning musical The Lion King starting February 3rd. Adapted from the 1994 animated Disney film by the same name, The Lion King Musical has since become the top earning musical in musical theatre history, a title previously held by The Phantom of the Opera. The musical debuted in 1997 in Minneapolis and has been performed worldwide on Broadway and in Tokyo, London, Sydney, Shanghai, Paris, Madrid, Sao Paolo, (to name a few) and has even made two national tours through both the United States and the U.K.. The Orpheum is hosting this musical, which received the 1998 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, for the entire month of February (February 3rd- March 1st).

In 1890, the Orpheum was first built as The Grand Opera House, which was identified as the classiest theatre outside of New York City. Since the Vaudeville was the main source of entertainment at this time, the Grand Opera House became part of the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit and changed the entertainment venues name to The Orpheum. Through the next century, The Orpheum stood through a fire, suffered through threats of being torn down, and withstood several financial bankruptcies. Through those tough times, however, it has remained on the corner of Main and Beale Street.

With a $1.6 million budget in 1928, the new Orpheum was built in place of The Grand Opera House. It was twice the size than the original and ornately decorated with lavish draperies, crystal chandeliers, and came with a pipe organ. The Orpheum was sold to the Malco movie theater chain and showed movies until Malco decided to sell it in 1976. In 1977, the Memphis Development Foundation purchased it before it could be sold and demolished in order to bring Broadway productions to Memphis.

In 1982, there began a $5 million restoration project to restore The Orpheum to its 1928 grandeur. The 1984 reopening was a large step for Memphis entertainment, bringing upscale productions to the corner of Beale Street, a signal that Memphis had reopened itself as a culturally vibrant city. The Orpheum now holds six to eight Broadway productions each year, performances from Opera Memphis and Ballet Memphis, as well as dozens of concerts, comedy shows, and special events.

Memphis’s historical Orpheum joins the list of worldwide theaters that have hosted The Lion King over the past eighteen years. Memphians will get to experience the critically acclaimed musical that brings the animal world to the stage through a cast of more than forty actors. With Elton John’s familiar tunes like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” the Memphis community will either sing along or fall in love with the music and story behind the musical.

Visit or call (901) 525-3000 to buy tickets today!

Posted in: Music