The Lion King to open in Dublin on Friday despite ‘bleak’ outlook

Walt Disney musical to finally go ahead at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre after restrictions

Walt Disney musical The Lion King will open in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on Friday as the venue hosts its first event since the latest set of Covid-19 public health restrictions were introduced.

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre general manager Stephen Faloon said last night there was a sense of relief that the facility would finally be opening its doors for the award-winning show.

“It is with massive relief and joy that we get to open tomorrow, and we feel very proud that we’re getting to open,” he said. “We have been very strict with our protocols and procedures to make that happen.

“We are really pushing the mandatory masks. We have taken away products such as large boxes of popcorn from our retail to encourage people to wear their masks all the time.

“It’s such a different experience from going to a restaurant or going to the pub, so you are wearing your mask most of the time. When you’re in your seat, you’re facing forward watching the show. There is not much mixing involved.

“People are not getting drunk and there is no relaxing of people’s behaviours, which makes it safer. We’ll only have 1,000 people in the audience, which is a little less than 50 per cent capacity.”

Mr Faloon said all 250 people working in the building on Friday will take an antigen test before they come in.

“We haven’t had anyone have to pull out this week, which is why we are confident about tomorrow because everybody is minding themselves and is modifying their behaviour,” he said.

“It’s a spectacular show. It’s a mammoth, brilliant, beautiful, visual, family spectacle of a show. Once you see it, you actually forget about Covid and you are transported into a completely different world set in Africa.

“You leave having not thought about Covid for two hours and 45 minutes, and that’s the best thing I can say about it.”

However, the story at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is very much “an outlier”, according to Event Industry Association of Ireland co-founder Elaine O’Connor, who said the situation facing the live events industry is “bleak”.

“There have been a lot of cancellations,” she said. “Where possible, people are trying to push through, whether that be by working longer hours or scaling back audiences. It’s a struggle. There is some funding but it’s very focused again on specific ends of the industry.

“The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is one of our biggest venues, owned and operated by probably the largest operator in the world, so if they can’t get something over the line, that’s a really bad sign.”

Ms O’Connor said the picture ahead also remains uncertain. “There are questions over things like the St Patrick’s Day Festival,” she said.

“That’s very concerning for us because if St Patrick’s Day doesn’t go ahead in a relatively normal fashion this year, there will be knock-on effects into the summer. There is no path out of here at the minute.

“It’s gone beyond a joke for a lot of sections of the industry. The supports and the response that is needed and that we’ve been asking for for about two years aren’t there, and Government doesn’t seem to want to deal with any of the practical issues facing us.”