11/19/2012 02:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Lion King's 15th Anniversary: Highest Grossing Musical Of All Time Celebrates Birthday With Landmark Performance (PHOTOS)

Today we are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the The Lion King, the highest grossing Broadway musical of all time. The epic retelling of Hamlet's tale with lions combines Disney's heartwarming formula with dark puppetry and flair for costume design.

lion king 15th anniversary

The musical, based on Disney's 1994 animated tear-jerker, debuted in 1997 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, directed by Julie Taymor. The score, with songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, was complimented by Garth Fagan's unorthodox choreography, drawing from African and Asian ritual dance. Taymor worked with costume/puppet director Michael Curry to transform the actors into life-sized animal artworks through imaginative costume designs. The plot follows Simba, who is convinced by his evil Uncle Scar that he is responsible for the death of his father, Mufasa, who is king. Simba flees Pride Rock and grows up in isolation, with the help of a flatulent hog and whiny meerkat. Eventually Simba returns home to fight his evil uncle and accept his rightful role as heir to the throne.

The show, which won six Tony's in its first year, has not let up in popularity in the years since its debut; it earned the distinction of being the sixth longest-running Broadway show of all time. (It's also made more money than "Avatar" and "Titanic" combined). In honor of its big birthday, The Lion King held a one-night only celebratory performance benefitting The Actors Fund this past Sunday, starring most members of the original creative team. See photos from the reunion below.

Happy Birthday, The Lion King! Hakuna Matata!

Lion King's 15th Anniversary