THE queue snaked around the Empire before first light as Wearsiders waited to get their claws into the hottest tickets in town.
More than 100 theatre-goers waited from 6am to snap up seats for The Lion King, which went on sale yesterday in the biggest queue the Empire has seen for tickets.
Box office sales started at 8am ahead of online and telephone sales at 10am for the Wearside leg of Britain’s biggest touring production.
Earlier this month, the Echo revealed the huge Disney show would play at the Sunderland Empire for seven weeks this autumn on its first and only North East date on the tour.
Beth Richardson was first in the queue.
“I’m going with my mam and two sisters. We’ve seen the show in London and it’s amazing, so we were really excited when we found out it was coming to Sunderland,” said the 22-year-old, from Silksworth.
She had her pick of the seats for the show which opens on September 18.
“I went for stalls seats because there’s a procession where the animals walk through the stalls,” said the Houghall College student. “I think it’s great that a show like this is coming to the city, it will help to bring a lot of business here.”
Ann Duffy travelled from Whitley Bay to get her hands on tickets for her and her grandchildren.
The grandma-of-three said: “I’m a huge fan of the animation and everyone I’ve spoken to who’s seen the live show have said they loved it. I think it’s a great coup that it’s coming to the North East.”
Tunes from The Lion King, which include Circle of Life, were played outside the Empire as queues formed and fans were presented with goody bags, doughnuts and coffee as they braved the chilly temperatures.
The Disney production, which will arrive in the city on 23 giant trucks, will be the largest show of its kind to play at the High Street West venue.
Apart from nothing emerging from below the floor, the show in Sunderland will be the same as that performed in London’s West End, which is directed and co-designed by Julie Taymor.
Disney bosses chose to stage the show at the Empire after being impressed by its facilities.
Ben Phillips, general manager at Sunderland Empire, said “Sunderland has done us proud with this queue. We are delighted to host the North East premiere of Disney’s The Lion King for a spectacular seven week run and we are thrilled to have been chosen as one the venues for this UK tour.
“Customer feedback following the announcement has been phenomenal and this is a monumental opportunity for audiences across the region to witness this awe-inspiring production.”
Fiona Thomas, vice president of Live Entertainment for The Walt Disney Company EMEA, said “We are thrilled to be bringing Disney’s The Lion King to the magnificent Sunderland Empire.
“We continue to be delighted by how much audiences enjoy The Lion King in London and we look forward to sharing Julie Taymor’s legendary production with audiences in Sunderland.”
The stage adaptation of the hit 1994 film was first seen on Broadway in 1997, where it recently became the highest grossing show in Broadway history. It is now in its 15th year at London’s Lyceum Theatre, where it continues to sell out.
l The Lion King will be at Sunderland Empire from September 18 to November 1. Tickets priced from £22.50 to £55 are available by calling 0844 871 3022, in person at the Box Office or via www.thelionking.co.uk.