Disney’s “The Lion King” leaps onto the Van Wezel stage through March 31.

The North American touring productions of “The Lion King” have been seen by more than 20 million theatergoers. Having already played more than 80 cities across North America, The Lion King now proudly makes its premiere in Sarasota.

After 21 landmark years on Broadway, “The Lion King” continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Since its premiere on Nov. 13, 1997, 25 global productions have been seen by more than 95 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), “The Lion King” has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years. Having been performed in eight different languages over the show’s life (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of “The Lion King” can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; Scheveningen, Holland; Singapore; South Korea and on tour across North America, for a total of nine productions running concurrently across the globe.

Having played over 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, “The Lion King’s” worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.

“The Lion King” won six 1998 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical. “The Lion King” has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.

The show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success. The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor has in recent years supervised new productions of the show around the world.

The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from The Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from “Rhythm of the Pride Lands,” an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer. The resulting sound of “The Lion King” is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to the haunting ballad “Shadowland.”

Tickets are available at the box office, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, online at www.VanWezel.org and by phone at 941-953-3368.

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