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'Lion King' Costumes Headed to Smithsonian

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'Lion King' Costumes Headed to Smithsonian
WASHINGTON – Producers of "The Lion King" musical are donating two of the Broadway show's elaborate costume pieces to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

On Thursday, museum officials accepted Simba's mask and the costume for tribal shaman and show narrator Rafiki to be placed in the entertainment history collection. They'll be in rare company among about 50 objects from Broadway, including costumes from "Hello, Dolly!," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Rent" and "Cats."

"We'll have Rafiki next to Dolly Levi. That's a big thing," said a giddy Thomas Schumacher, the show's producer.

"The Rafiki costume really speaks to the design and soul of the show," he said. "This is a completely original creation that doesn't look like anything else. That's kind of thrilling."

Designer Julie Taymor created the costumes, puppetry and scenic design that brought the 1994 animated Disney movie to life on stage in 1997. The hit show how now been seen by 50 million people worldwide — the first American musical to hit that milestone and only the fourth in theater history.

The show, featuring the music of Elton John and Tim Rice, including the Academy Award-winning "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," has been presented in 13 different countries.

Museum curator Dwight Blocker Bowers said the show represents an evolution in Broadway design, one reason why he sought out the "Lion King" pieces. It also has an intergenerational appeal, which he said is rare because musical tastes tend to vary by age group.

"The musical is an indigenous American art form in terms of how we know it," Blocker Bowers said. "The Lion King," he said, "took the musical to areas it had never embraced before," bringing animals to life with live puppetry and groundbreaking costumes.

The museum hopes to display the objects in 2010.





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