Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review

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Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review

Disney's The Lion King is returning to Sunderland Empire after it's sell-out run eight years ago. It's the only place in the North East where you will be able to watch this record breaking and award-winning production. 

I have been lucky enough to watch this show in London back in 2012 and the memories are still with me now. I don't know what it is about this particular production but the music in particular really stirs up a lot of emotion for me and the tears start streaming as soon as the first few notes are played. 

It's incredible! And if you have tickets, you're in for a real treat. 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Tickets  

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review

Tickets have been on sale for a while now so don't expect to bag a bargain or the best seats in house. However I have had a quick look and there are still some £20 seats available. At time of writing, the best choice is available on:
  • 5 April at 7:30pm
  • 12-14 April at 7:30pm
  • 19-21 April
  • 25-28 April 
  • 30 April at 2:30pm 
  • 3-5 May 
Check for the most up to date availability and book tickets here.  They also have standing tickets available - these are available just at the very end of the stalls. 

I have to say, I do think tickets would make an excellent Easter gift/treat. 

If you're interested in getting the best seats and prices for future performances, it might be worth you signing up to ATG's TheatreCard Member Club. Members benefit from priority booking and seat selection and a priority booking line (as well as lots of other benefits). 

Sunderland Empire to not offer standby tickets. 

I personally think the best seats are in the middle of the dress circle (avoiding the front row which has limited leg room) or the stalls if you're not with short kids to really be in the heart of the action (kids are allowed in the stalls - the seating is just not elevated here). 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | How to Get There 

Public Transport 

  • Sunderland Train Station is a 10 minute walk from the theatre 

  • Several bus routes pass the theatre (see here for a current list

  • Sunderland and Park Lane Metro Stations are less than a 10 minute walk from the theatre and theatregoers can travel for free up to two hours before and two hours after their show (see here for t&cs). 


We usually park in St Mary's Car Park (SR1 3AH) which is across the road (and a 5 minute walk) from Sunderland Empire. This car park was awarded Safer Parking Status in 2017 and has retained this status year on year. The car park usually has an attendant and is 100% crime free.

There are 480 spaces and it is open 24 hours so you don't need to worry about rushing back. It is free to park here Mon-Fri from 3pm-midnight, charges apply at other times. 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review  - parking map

Where to Stay 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Pre-Theatre Dining 

We dined at Mexico 70 which is across the road from Sunderland Empire. We love it there and I like that you can easily book ahead online. Their tacos are honestly the best around, service is fab and they serve spicy margaritas! They have some fab deals running through the week too. 

I also have a full blog post dedicated to Restaurants near Sunderland Empire which have all been recommended by readers. Popular recommendations include: 

  • Mexico 70
  • Pizza al Teatro at Sunderland Empire
  • Apertif bar & Kitchen 
  • The Engine Room
  • My Delhi 
  • Spent Grain 
  • Asiana 
  • No2 Church Lane 
  • The Rabbit 
  • Motiraj

The Engine Room is next door to the theatre and they have put together a special themed kids menu which looks fab. Dishes include: 
  • Stampede burger with fries (£6) 
  • Birdie Bites (£6.50)
  • The Circle of Life Sausage (£6.50) 
  • Bugs n Grubs Spag Bol (£6) 
  • Cheeky Monkey Smashed Bananas (£3)
  • Lions Paw Rice Crispie Cake (£3)
  • Pride Rock Dessert (£3.50)

You can find out more about the above restaurants including their exact locations and menus + booking info in my Restaurants near Sunderland Empire blog post. Booking a table in advance is definitely recommended. 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Arrival Info & Merch 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review

Please arrive in good time, you must be seated at least 5 minutes before the performance start time. There is a strict no admittance for latecomers during the first 15 minutes (and you won't want to miss the start!).

With previous performances, bag searches do take place but you have been able to take your own sweets and drinks into the theatre. You are not permitted to take your own alcohol or hot food into the theatre. 

The bar / snack stand is open before the show and during the interval or you can pre-order drinks and snacks to be delivered to your seat on the day of your performance using this link (you can order from home on the day of your performance which is easier). 

The theatre is cash free. Please use card / contactless for purchases. 

Booster seats are available - just ask an usher. 

The theatre ask that you do not sing during the show unless invited to by the cast and please keep phones on silent and packed away and noise to a minimum during the performance. 

If you'd like to watch or commemorate the show wearing a Lion King T-Shirt, there are lots of options here available from £10.99 here. 

Merch is available to purchase from the theatre at several concession stands (card / contactless). Expect to pay £20-£26 for a soft toy. There are also special Lion King themed commemorative cups available from the bar - £7.50 with a soft drink, £9.50 with a slush, £10 with a programme or £12.50 with a soft drink and programme. 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | What to Expect 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review

You can expect the highest quality of production and professionalism with Disney's The Lion King. It is a complete feast for the senses and a show which really captivates and holds you complete attention for the duration. Pure theatrical escapism! 

  • Show length: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval (although our show lasted 2 hours 50 minutes in total so do leave time for it to run over). 
  • Age guidance: Recommended for ages 6+, children under the age of 3 will not be admitted 
  • Arrival: You must be seated at least 5 minutes before the performance starts so please arrive in good time

Accessible performances 

Here are a few key facts: 

  • The internationally acclaimed production is visiting Sunderland Empire for 7 weeks from 16 March - 6 May 2023. 

  • Look out for Ed (one of the male hyenas) played by Alex Bloomer who was born in Sunderland.

  • Expect spectacular masks, puppetry and costumes as Simba's story is brought to life on stage. 

  • The original score from the animated film has been adapted for stage and now features 15 numbers including three new numbers by Elton John and Tim Rice (which add to the five that they wrote for the award-winning score in the animated film.

  •  The cast features over 50 singers, dancers and and actors from around the world. 

  • The Lion King on stage is brought to us by Disney Theatrical Productions (a division of Walt Disney Studios). The Lion King opened in the West End at the Lyceum Theatre in 1999 and won two Olivier Awards and the Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year. 

  • The Lion King has been enjoyed by over 110 million theatregoers across 21 countries across the world. There are currently 10 productions of the show playing worldwide. 

  • Kyle Richardson from St Kitts plays the lead role of Simba. You may also recognise British actor Richard Hurst who plays Scar with on-screen appearances include Eastenders, Casualty and Doctors.

  • Find out more and book tickets here. 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Our Review 

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | Top Tips & Review

The Lion King is just incredible and an absolute first class production with plenty of 'wow' moments and times where your hairs will stand on end and you will catch your breath. 

There are so many stand out scenes but I have to give a mention to the beautiful Lioness'. Their movement together on stage was captivating and you forget that you're not watching the real thing. 

There is a huge spectrum of puppets from giraffes on stilts to shadow puppets, birds flying above your head and incredible masks and costumes. It is such a visual spectacle. 

The vocals and music are some of the best I have ever heard and the ensemble really stand out as being outstanding. I love that the orchestra and music really flows through the audience.

The visual effects and orchestra really come into their own with the stampede scene. It's so realistic that you feel as if you too are running a long with Simba. My heart was racing.

Obviously there are some sad moments but these are sensitively done and these are balanced with some hilarious scenes courtesy of the best ever sidekicks - Timone, Pumba and Zsa Zsu. These three are just hilarious and I loved every second they were on stage. I last watched The Lion King in the West End 10 years ago and since then there have been some new brilliant one liners added which I won't ruin for you. 

I am a sucker for a good villain and Scar and the Hyenas didn't disappoint. When they were all on stage together it was just everything you wanted from the bad guys and more. 

South African composer Lebo M has created an evocative mix of African sounds and there are strong African influences from the vocals, music and spoken word to the stunning costumes and dance. It was a brilliant blend and worked perfectly to accompany the story. 

I don't know what it is about The Lion King but it really gets my emotions. I ended up crying twice. Not at the sad parts but at the parts where there is a big celebration of diversity and without meaning to be cheesy, when 'The Circle of Life' is on stage. It's just stunning and overwhelming (but in a good way). 

The age recommendation for this production is 6+ and I would say this is fair. We took Harry when he was 6 and he managed fine. It's not exactly like the film - it's longer and with more songs and much more of a visual feast. There aren't really any parts which are any scarier than the film in the stage version, I'd say it's more about if they'd have the attention span to sit through a 2.5 hour musical. 

Our evening ended with a huge standing ovation and I imagine it's going to be the same at every show for the next 7 weeks. What a production! There's really nothing else like it.

Disney's The Lion King at Sunderland Empire | FAQs 

How long is the performance? 
2 hours 30 minutes including interval (although it may run over this by 20 minutes or so).

Can I take a 2 year old? 
As per booking conditions, under 3s will not be admitted to the theatre. 

What is the age recommendation? 
Recommended for ages 6+

Does the theatre accept cash? 
No, it is card/contactless only. 

Can I take my own drinks / sweets into the theatre? 
Yes, there will be a bag search but snacks and drinks in unopened sealed packaging are permitted. Reusable cups/bottles are only permitted if empty and open (you can fill with water once inside at the bar) and you cannot take your own alcohol or hot food into the theatre. 

Is there public transport? 
Yes, see here for info. 

Can I travel free on Metro? 

Yes - 2 hours before and after your performance for valid ticket holders. See here for more info. 

Where should I park? 

We use St Mary's Car Park (SR1 3AH) which is a 5 minute walk away and open 24/7. 

Where is good to eat beforehand? 
See our Sunderland Empire Restaurant Recommendations 

Are there booster seats? 
Yes, just ask an usher. 

Can you reshare the link to pre-order interval snacks and drinks 
Sure, here it is. 

Is it worth getting tickets? 
If you can afford tickets, yes. It is one of the best productions I have ever seen! 


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