'The Lion King' is coming to Austin; meet the Tony-winning choreographer, Garth Fagan
Who is ready to have no worries? The Broadway production of "The Lion King" is coming to Austin this week.
The show will run April 7-24 at Bass Concert Hall.
We caught up with Garth Fagan, who choreographed "The Lion King" when it was first on Broadway. He won a Tony Award for best choreography for the show in 1998. That same choreography is used in the touring production coming to Austin.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
American-Statesman: How does it feel to see something of yours last for as long as it has?
Garth Fagan: Oh my god, it is a blessing. A huge, immense, profound blessing, to see your work and those of Julie Taymor (the show's original director) and your colleagues just being applauded by people around the world, in different languages, different cultures, different colors, everything.
Can you take me through the process of coming up with the choreography?
I just wanted it to be something that Broadway had never seen before. Lots of the Broadway choreographers ... shake your shoulders, shake your boobs, shake everything you got and big huge smiles. I wanted something more than that, because dancers work their entire life to perfect shapes, forms, to get high jumps, and in my dance company, women and men jump just as high.
I was blessed that 90% of the dancers I worked with, I'd worked with before, so I knew what their capabilities were and what they could and could not do. So, I could push them to that shimmering place where audiences are glad that they got the babysitter and traveled miles to see this.
What should audiences expect from the tour?
Surprises, elation, positivity. There's sections where women fall and the men or other women catch them. Just a very positive, uplifting experience. My daughter, when she was a little girl, she just loved her some cats, and I'm a dog person. She passed in a car accident in France (before "The Lion King" premiered in the '90s). I kept her in mind throughout the choreography, and I said, "What would Sherrin love here?"
I haven't seen the Broadway production of "The Lion King," so I'm really excited it's coming to Austin.
You're in for a treat, trust me, from when the curtain goes up till it goes down. There is lots of beauty, fabulous dancing, fabulous singing, fabulous acting.
What do you think it is about "The Lion King" that has appealed to audiences for so long?
I think it's the familial thing — the father-song thing, the father-daughter thing. The uncle, you know, everybody's got a wicked uncle. If they're not wicked, they're kind of crazy and ruin Thanksgiving dinner by saying naughty things or ugly things. Every family has one of those, and you just got to love them and remember it's your uncle and keep on chugging. That is one aspect of it.
(Taymor's) imagination is just superb. The ideas she comes up with are just incredible. I'll always remember, as long as I live, the opening night in Minneapolis (in the '90s), after we finished the first number and the audience roared. They were so enthralled with all these animals dancing, and humans dancing. In "The Lion King," you always see the human face in the animal costume, so you're constantly reminded of that. Oh honey, you're in for a treat.
I can't not ask this — how did it feel to win a Tony Award?
Oh, hallelujah! Hallelujah, oh God. I was so honored and thrilled, and the competition was stiff that year with all the other shows. I was just thrilled. I'm grateful, I'm thankful.
How do you feel about the recent "Lion King" movie with Beyoncé?
Oh, I haven't seen that. I love Beyoncé, period. I enjoyed her at the Oscars. I'm sure I'd love it.
I'll have to have my son research that.
Do you have any Texas ties?
Oh, lord. When Dallas was the only city that had Neiman Marcus, I used to go to Dallas a lot. I've been to Houston.
My company, Garth Fagan Dance, has toured all over the world. ... I can be grateful and thankful and extremely proud of my work and the work of all my colleagues. Everybody in "The Lion King," starting with (Taymor), worked their butts off to get whatever the best look, the highest this, the most expressive show we could possibly do.
Is there anything you wanted to add?
No darling, but you're in for a treat. That Neiman Marcus store is still in Dallas right?
Yes, it is.
Oh lord, what a store. I'll have to come down there just to visit the store.
If you go
"The Lion King" in Austin
When: April 7-24
Where: Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus (2350 Robert Dedman Drive)
Cost: Tickets start at $35
More information: texasperformingarts.org/season/the-lion-king-broadway-austin-2022