If you're sitting in Edinburgh's Playhouse from the middle of October into January of next year, that love will be coming in waves of emotion (and ecstatic applause) from audiences watching the stage musical of The Lion King. Box-office figures will tell how the production's global popularity has stacked up in terms of record-breaking numbers: seen by over 65 million people over five continents, the highest-grossing show in Broadway history, with the West End production still selling out at London's Lyceum even in the 14th year of its run.
But the love? That's measured by the hush that descends on an audience drinking in the beauty of a moment or by the gasps of delighted surprise when the stage fills with leaping gazelles - yes, common sense whispers that they're puppets, but the eye is willing to be deceived because somehow their grace in flight seems so real ... Cheers and tears - copious amounts of both - set the seal on it: people of all ages, all backgrounds, all cultures simply love The Lion King.
Why? Stephen Crocker, who is the Disney Theatrical Group's director of marketing and creative services, has all kinds of persuasive answers at the ready. He'll cheerfully reel them off, but will just as cheerfully agree that other spectacular musicals have had memorable tunes and show-stopping numbers, special effects and a story that tugs at the heart - usually with just enough tragedy and violent conflict to suggest that the ending might not necessarily be as happy as we'd like.
But when our fears are disproved? "It has such a powerful impact on an audience's emotions," he says. "And there are a lot of shows out there that achieve it." Yes, yes - but what separates The Lion King from the rest? Crocker grins knowingly, then says "Julie Taymor".
Hers is maybe not a household name, not one generally recognised in the way that The Lion King's songwriting team of Elton John and Time Rice is, or indeed the way anything with "Disney" in the tag can trigger instant recall in young and old alike. But without Taymor it's doubtful if any kind of transition from screen animation to stage musical would have been achieved, let alone with the innovation and elan that has led to the production garnering awards for well over a decade now.
Crocker explains that when the cinema version came out, Disney had just produced its first Broadway stage show, Beauty And The Beast, and was looking for a follow-up with similar family appeal.
"That summer of 1994, The Lion King was such a phenomenon on-screen we thought it would be really interesting if we could find a way to tell the story on-stage.
The thing was, this was a story about animals, not people. Even though what happens to Simba - the way he has to live up to his destiny as a king, take responsibility for his actions - is a story we can identify with, it's still about a lion cub, not a little boy."
Crocker's wry amusement as he retells this background reflects the pride that clearly still attaches to the way Taymor's vision not only saw The Lion King re-born as a ground-breaking musical, but has also fed radical influences into a host of other theatrical ventures since, the National Theatre's hit show War Horse among them.
All credit then to Thomas Schumacher, president of the Disney Theatrical division, who came up with the idea of inviting Taymor - whose artistic talents included sculpture, as well as costume design - to work on the project.
"Tom understood that if you tried to do it conventionally - just put people in costumes, like Cats, for instance - it would never work," continues Crocker. Even so, Taymor's concept proved a tad unnerving for some of Schumacher and Crocker's colleagues. When a group of the studio's executives were shown a couple of sequences along with some of the mask work, the response was a flat "no way" and, since they held the purse-strings, the project was promptly mothballed.
Schumacher and his team, however, were undaunted and determined. They had identified a real tingle factor of something new and exciting in Taymor's ideas, not least in her dynamic use of puppetry - those leaping gazelles, for instance, went soaring over the savannah courtesy of a bicycle-like apparatus. Soon known as the "gazelle wheel", it was an inspired way of making something ordinary support a piece of breathtaking theatre magic.
As for the masks, Taymor had looked deep into cultures where masks were intrinsic to epic story-telling, and brought elements of non-Western stagecraft - with Balinese, Indonesian and Asian traditions to the fore - into her own design process.
Taymor has said herself that when she agreed to design and then direct the staging of The Lion King, her instinct was for the production to have elegance and "to not be cute". She stuck to her guns and beliefs beliefs:"You don't have to patronise your audience and you can mix art and commerce in a profound way," she said. "You can simultaneously play to the sophisticated, 60-year-old theatre-goer and to four-year-olds. You just have to do what only theatre can - create a visceral experience that surrounds you."
Crocker saw the proof of that when the first paying customers watched the show at a preview. Would they accept Taymor's gambit of having her carved animal masks placed not in front of the performer's face, but on the brow-bone, just as many African tribes do for ritual dances and ceremonies? Would the fabulous, articulated animal puppets, the cunning trompe l'oeil effects and seemingly simple techniques capture the imagination of audiences increasingly used to - and maybe expecting - a blitz of hi-tech wizardry, all lasers and animatronics?
Then, as now, Taymor's way of telling Simba's journey, from exiled cub to heroic return as the Lion King he was destined to be, left all ages spellbound. Perhaps because, in the same way her masks let audiences see the character's human faces, so there was nothing in the exuberant, spectacular energies of the show that overshadowed the story. As for those puppets, Crocker is convinced that they opened the door of modern theatre-making to what is a very ancient - and often neglected - art form.
"If someone had told you 15 years ago that the two top-selling shows in the West End - War Horse being the other - would be based around puppetry, you would have thought they were mad. But I think people looked at what Julie created, the authenticity it had as well as the innovation, the powerful effect it had on people … and felt able to suggest using puppets in productions elsewhere. And that's a tremendous acknowledgement of what The Lion King has achieved. Not just smashing box-office records and winning awards, but being a game-changer in the theatre. What more could you want for a show that almost didn't get made?"
Meanwhile, the Playhouse is getting ready for the only Scottish dates on the production's UK tour. It's a major event on the venue's calendar, with a three-month run that will see every backstage nook and cranny of the building buzzing with activity. Over 700 costumes are worn during the show, then there are the masks - some with potentially fragile decorations, such as peacock feathers - as well as the headdresses made of (plastic) grass that so exquisitely bring the savannah to life on-stage.
No wonder it takes about 150 people to make the show happen every night - and only a third of those are performers.
Already there have been some head-scratching moments. How to get the elephant - which needs four people operating it - into the stalls? Mention has been made of knocking a hole in the building's brickwork.Time, perhaps, for everyone to join in a chorus or two of Hakuna Matata, the show's glorious song about a problem-free philosophy …
The Lion King is at the Edinburgh Playhouse from October 12-January 18. An exhibition of costumes and props opens at City Arts Centre, Edinburgh on September 28.