Elton John: The Musical Man
Perhaps best-known for his rock career that has spanned over forty years, Sir Elton John has become one of the world’s biggest names in musical theatre.
His first foray into musical theatre was a cameo appearance singing ‘Pinball Wizard’ in the film version of The Who’s rock opera, Tommy in 1975.
In 1994, John and Tim Rice wrote the music for Disney’s animated feature, The Lion King. The soundtrack was the best-selling album in the US for nine consecutive weeks and provided 3 out of the 5 Oscar nominees for Best Song, winning for ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’. His release of the song as a single also won Elton a Grammy Award.
Following the overwhelming success of the film, The Lion King was adapted as a musical, opening on Broadway in 1997. The production was a massive hit, receiving 11 Tony nominations, including Best Score for John, and going on to win 6, including Best Musical. It is currently the seventh longest-running show in Broadway history after more than 5,000 performances.
The West End transfer of The Lion King achieved similar critical acclaim, including 3 Olivier nominations. It has been one of the hottest tickets in town since its opening in 1999, regularly playing to sold-out houses. Other successful productions have been launched all over the world, including Toronto, Hamburg, Sydney, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Taipei, and Singapore.
John and Rice teamed up again in 2000 on Aida, a musical adaptation of Verdi’s opera. Telling the story of an Egyptian captain who falls in love with an enslaved Nubian princess, the production was another huge hit, winning 4 Tony awards including Best Score. The play closed after four successful years on Broadway.
In 2005, John wrote the music for the smash-hit musical, Billy Elliot, an adaptation of the film about a working-class British boy who becomes a ballet dancer. Opening to critical acclaim, the West End production won 4 Olivier awards including Best Musical, whilst the Broadway transfer won a staggering 10 Tony awards. The London production continues to be on of the West End’s biggest sellers.
John next teamed up with his long-time songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, on Lestat the Musical, based on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. After a hugely successful pre-Broadway tryout in San Francisco, the production underwent major changes, including scrapping a number of songs and key theatrical elements. Upon opening in New York, the show received unilaterally scathing reviews, including from the New York Times who called it a “musical sleeping pill”. A financial flop, it closed after just 39 performances.
With Billy Elliot and The Lion King still playing extended runs in the West End, John took up residence at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with his show, The Million Dollar Piano in September, 2011. It is scheduled to run through 2014.