1,500 NYC students see ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway as part of TDF’s introductory theater program

NEW YORK CITY — About 1,500 New York City public school students and their teachers saw “The Lion King” on Broadway for free Wednesday, part of a long-running program that had to be put on hold for two years in due to the COVID pandemic.

But now that Broadway has resumed operations, so has Disney and the Theater Development Fund’s Introduction to Theater program.

Their enthusiasm was evident, the energy levels high, and it buzzed outside the Minsikoff Theater on 45th Street as the city’s youth walked out after nearly three hours of free entertainment.

That’s enough to reaffirm your faith in the power of live theater: experiencing Disney’s “The Lion King” in all its wonder through the eyes of teenagers.

“I was just completely shocked,” one said. “I didn’t expect Broadway to be so great.”

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The Theater Development Fund, or TDS, is the nonprofit most famous for its Times Square TKTS booth which offers discounted tickets, but the group also finds other ways to make Broadway shows accessible to the public. greater number.

“What I’ve missed the most during the pandemic and what I’m most looking forward to is being back in the theater with 1,500 students in their very first Broadway show,” the executive director said. from TDF, Victoria Bailey.

The long-running show the students attended is a perfect way to experience the magic of Broadway, says one of the teachers who brought them.

“These students were on Disney,” she said. “They saw ‘The Lion King.’ They love ‘The Lion King.’ So what better way to introduce them to theater than to take them to see a show they already love and see actors bring it to life on stage in real time.”

Disney theatrical division president Tom Schumacher has long worked to attract a more diverse audience.

“We are literally planting dreams,” he said. “Dreams in their head of fantasy, but also dreams of possibility.”

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And by giving away “The Lion King” for free, everyone involved is getting the next generation of viewers excited about the Great White Way.

“It knocked me out of the water,” said one. “It was really cool to see it all so close to you, and it’s live, so it’s not like they’re wrong, they can just do it again.”

“The Lion King” comes from Disney, owned by the same parent company as this ABC station.

On Sunday, the theater will welcome families for a special performance of the “autism-friendly” musical, which is another effort by TDF to attract a more diverse audience and send the message that Broadway is back and going strong.

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