'Mary' to pop into 'Lion' lair

Disney will move its Broadway smash “The Lion King” out of the New Amsterdam to make way for the stage tuner “Mary Poppins,” which begins previews there Oct. 14, 2006.

In a switch-up that had long been whispered about, “Lion King” will jump to the Minskoff in June. Show won’t be scaled down when it makes the shift, as happened when Disney transplanted “Beauty and the Beast” from the Palace to the Lunt-Fontanne in 1999.

Co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh (“Cats,” “Les Miserables”), “Mary Poppins” will also continue its run in London, where it’s done solid biz since it opened in December. The show has “by far the biggest advance in London,” Mackintosh said.

Explaining the theater-juggling in Gotham, Thomas Schumacher, prexy of Disney Theatrical Prods., said, “Putting ‘Mary Poppins’ in what is recognized as a Disney theater is a terrific branding opportunity for us.”

And the Minskoff, with its wide wall of windows looking out over Broadway, will significantly boost the visibility of the long-running “Lion.” “The theater has unbelievable signage and frontage,” Schumacher said. “It puts us right in the middle of Times Square.”

James M. Nederlander, owner of the Minskoff, has pledged to renovate the theater before “Lion King” moves in. Venue currently houses the revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” set to shutter in January.

Helmer Richard Eyre co-directs “Mary Poppins” with Matthew Bourne (“Swan Lake”), who also choreographs. George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have added songs to the familiar “Poppins” songbook by the tunesmiths of the Disney film, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. Book is by Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”), with sets and costumes by Bob Crowley (“Aida,” the upcoming “Tarzan”).

“Lion King,” which opened in 1997, finishes up at the New Amsterdam June 4 and opens at the Minskoff June 13. “Mary Poppins” opens at the New Amsterdam Nov. 16, 2006.

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