It’s the circle of life: In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Lion King, Sir Elton John—who composed many of the songs in the original Disney classic, which the musical is based on, including “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” “Hakuna Matata,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”—made a surprise appearance on Sunday at the The Minskoff Theatre in New York, where a special performance of the musical was underway. Theater-goers were treated to John’s rendition of “Circle of Life” after the curtain fell.
Taking the stage in a black overcoat with flower embellishments and pink glitter sunglasses, the Tony-, Grammy-, and Oscar-winner played the piano and sang the iconic ballad, with the current cast of the musical serving as backup, Playbill reports. The beloved musical opened on Broadway on November 13, 1997, and has since earned six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, over its tenure. The show also holds the title of Broadway’s third longest-running show, with more than 8,310 performances, and has earned almost $1.5 billion over the past 20 years, making it the highest-grossing stage show in history. Sunday’s celebration also included special guests, like cast members from Disney’s upcoming Frozen musical as well as two former Nalas, who are both outfitted with Tony awards: Heather Headley, the original Lion King star, and Hamilton alum Renée Elise Goldsberry.
The timing of John’s surprise performance is even more relevant noting last week’s announcement of the cast for the forthcoming live-action Lion King film. It packs a star-studded punch with Beyoncé starring as Nala, Donald Glover as Simba, Seth Rogan as Pumba, and Billy Eichner as Timon. James Earl Jones will reprise his role as the original voice of Mufasa in the Jon Favreau-directed remake of the ’94 animated film. Besides writing the classic Lion King songs, Sir Elton John has also composed scores for Broadway’s Billy Elliot, Lestat, and Aida and he is currently working on a musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada.
Watch his moving performance, below.