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Will Simba succeed in Las Vegas where others have failed?

September 30, 2008 |  5:38 pm

'The Lion King' It's commonplace to lament the Disney-fication of Las Vegas. Now, the company is planning to make its presence even more unavoidable when "The Lion King" opens at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in May 2009.

The sit-down production (theater-speak for an open-ended run) represents the first venture by Disney Theatrical Productions in Las Vegas. Disney said the staging will be virtually identical to the original Broadway production, which was directed by Julie Taymor, and opened in 1997.

At first glance, "The Lion King" seems like a perfect fit for family-friendly Vegas. But Culture Monster is more than a little bit wary considering the seemingly indestructible Broadway war-horses that have flopped under the hot desert sun.  "Hairspray," "The Producers" and "Avenue Q" all met ignoble deaths following their much-hyped Vegas debuts.

Even a shortened version of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Venetian has yet to recoup its costs after nearly two years.

Will Simba fare differently? It's impossible to say, of course, but only Cirque du Soleil has truly conquered Vegas stages. Do vacationers traveling to the Strip really want to see a Broadway show? Can lion puppets compete with slot machines? Only time (and the box office) will tell.

— David Ng

Photo credit: Disney Theatrical Productions