Christmas in New York has a rhythm all its own: spectacular department store window displays; ice skating and viewing the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center; and of course, shopping and taking in a Broadway show.
But for travelers who flock to the city this season, the holiday “circle of life” ritual just got a little bit bigger -- for a couple weeks at least.
A new interactive pop-up exhibit, “Inside The Lion King,” adjacent to Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan from December 1-16, is designed to take guests behind the scenes of the popular stage production, and will display almost 100 items -- animal shadow puppets, masks, costumes, and props -- that have been used on stage in the show or will be used in future productions. Visitors, for example, will be able to see details, like the beading on Simba’s costume or the hand painted capes, not possible to see or touch from theater seats.
The creators say is the first immersive, pop-up exhibit ever created for a Broadway show.
The idea for the exhibit evolved over many years, as audience members frequently expressed interest in “getting a little bit closer” to the production, said Andrew Flatt, senior vice president for marketing at the Disney Theatrical Group. The show is celebrating its 15th anniversary on Broadway this year, so it seemed like the right time to do it, he said.
“We considered backstage tours, but those are things you can’t do in volume,” Flatt said, noting that it is the first time a live event space was used in conjunction with a stage musical.
“The Lion King” has been performed in 15 different countries on five continents, in eight languages.
The some 5,000 square foot “experiential” exhibit will include displays and touch screen presentations of original early concept materials and sketches used in developing the show to help guests learn about the creative process. Fans can be photographed with a five-foot wildebeest mask or next to the show’s iconic “the circle of life” image of the sun. They can even pose with a Rafiki and Scar, wax figures from Madame Tussauds, one of the exhibit’s sponsors.
Special weekend workshops will feature African music and dance, design, and storytelling. Visitors, for example, can create an original mask, or try their hand at playwriting.
Christina Norsig, chief executive of PopUpInsider.com, an online exchange for temporary properties, said she had not heard of a pop-up for a Broadway Show, but thought it a wonderful use of the trend.
“It makes total sense,” said Norsig, who is also author of “Pop-Up Retail: How You Can Master This Global Marketing Phenomenon.” “I personally have been behind the scenes of the Nutcracker and when you see the details up close it helps you connect to the show,” she said, noting that such encounters can educate the public. “It brings the show to life, the magic of it.” In addition, she said, “I think it is a terrific marketing effort.”
Though potentially good for ticket sales, that was not the impetus, said Flatt. “Sales are fantastic,” he said. “We’ve had the most successful year ever.” And while the exhibit may reinvigorate interest, the exhibit was primarily intended to showcase Julie Taymor’s original vision of the show, by highlighting the creative process and to tell the story of the production, he said.
"The Lion King is one of our city's most popular Broadway productions,” said Christopher C. Heywood, first vice president of communications for NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for New York City. “This new interactive attraction gives visitors a unique chance to extend their Broadway experience outside the theater, creating longer-lasting memories of this iconic show.”
During the 2010-2011 season, Broadway as an industry contributed $11.2 billion to the city’s economy, a 9 percent increase from the 2008-2009 season, a report released earlier this year by The Broadway League found.
The exhibit is free and open to the public, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days. Tickets to “The Lion King” and other Disney productions, as well as some merchandise, will be on sale. For more information, visit lionking.com/exhibit.