The ‘Lion’ gives a Fresno pre-party, and he doesn’t skimp on the invitations

Several years ago, producers of the national tour of “Wicked” held a press event at the Saroyan Theatre. It was a few months before the popular musical opened in Fresno for the first time. I was among a few dozen invited members of the media. We sat in chairs arranged right up there on the stage itself. (No need for that tiny number to sit in the cavernous auditorium.) One of the stars of the show from the current tour was on hand to sing a couple of songs, including the show-stopping “Defying Gravity.” A rep for Broadway in Fresno talked about when single tickets would go on sale. There was time for a few questions, press conference-style.

Jack Eldon, a Disney Theatricals vice president, instructs us on the aerodynamics of Julie Taymor’s gazelles. Photos / Caty Massey Perez

So you’ll understand why I was expecting pretty much the same thing on Monday evening for the introduction of “The Lion King” to the Fresno market. (It opens Nov. 28 and runs through Dec. 9.) I’d glanced at the email invite and sent in my RSVP. I figured I’d breeze in, grab a seat, ask a few questions, listen to a couple of songs, and be on my way.

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‘The Lion King’ is coming to Fresno … finally!

The Broadway in Fresno 2018-19 season also includes “Something Rotten!” and the return of “Wicked”

After years of Fresno-area theater fans whining like hyenas about the unfairness of it all, there is justice on the savanna: In six months, “The Lion King” is coming to Fresno.

The extravagant Broadway touring production, known for its fanciful puppets and elaborate, actor-inhabited animal costumes that have provided untold billable hours for the nation’s chiropractors, will open Nov. 28 at the Saroyan Theatre for a 12-day run. The show opened in New York in 1997 and is still going strong. So it took 20 years for Fresno to feel the love tonight. No wonder the wildebeests were getting restless.

“The Lion King” opens Nov. 28 at the Saroyan Theatre. Photo / Dean van Meer, ©Disney

Season tickets go on sale online at 8 a.m. today (Monday, May 14). The announcement was embargoed until that time. You can also purchase by phone at 888-255-9363 and in person at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center Box Office, 700 M Street. (Hours for the box office are listed as 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and I’m not sure if it will be opening early for this sale.)

The 2018-19 Fresno Lexus Broadway In Fresno season has some other big titles as well. “Something Rotten!” — the newest title in the season — will play April 16-17, 2019. The 20th anniversary of “RENT” will play Feb. 6-7, 2019. “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I,” based on the the 2015 Tony Award-winning Lincoln Center Theater production, will play Jan 15-16.

Continue reading “‘The Lion King’ is coming to Fresno … finally!”