The Lion King Jr., presented by Lakeland College’s Performing Arts Musical Theatre, wowed crowds last week at the Vic Juba Community Theatre. TAYLOR WEAVER LLS PHOTO
Simba, the rightful lion king is seated on the throne and all of his creature subjects in Pride Lands are living happily ever after.
That’s how it is too for the entire production crew and cast of young actors following four public performances of the musical Lion King Jr. at the Vic Juba Community theatre last week.
The play involved more than 80 students aged five to 17 from Lakeland College’s Performing Arts Musical Theatre continuing education program.
“There is a lot of kids in that production,” said Lakeland performing arts instructor Kathryn Edwards, who directed and choreographed the show.
“When I decided to do the Lion King I knew it was going to be quite a challenge just because I have seen the Broadway show.”
She said she wanted to stay true to what the Broadway show is like with lots of puppetry and amazing costumes.
“We really tried to recreate that for our theatre group,” said Edwards before an initial sold-out matinee for schools only.
“The play itself is actually a culmination of the theatre courses we offered at Lakeland College and this is their final production.”
As usual, the cast of this year’s show included kids aged five to eight in Lakeland’s Musical Theatre group and youth nine to 17 from the Triple Threat groups.
Rehearsals began last September with ensemble chorus parts for the younger set.
“It gives them a chance to be a part of a big scale production, but without it being too overwhelming and having to learn lines,” said Edwards.
Some of the older Triple Threat actors nailed down lead roles playing animal characters like Simba, Mufasa and Nala who live in Shadow Land.
“The rest of them are in an ensemble— we’ve got hyenas, the grassland ensemble and the the Lioness ensemble,” said Edwards.
She said the annual shows and performing arts in general work wonders for her musical theatre students.
“There’s a lot of self esteem that can come out of it, a sense of accomplishment and a lot of self discovery,” said Edwards.
She said specifically for theatre it teaches kids empathy and how to cooperate with one another.
“There’s a lot of life skills in performing arts that you don’t really get in any other area, it’s also working as a team,” Edwards added.
She said the live performances also provide parents in the auditorium with added value and memories.
“It’s just something that gives them a lot of pride to see their kids working so hard for something and they’re going out and performing and basically just wowing the crowd.” said Edwards.
She said numerous parents and volunteers spent hours creating the costumes and set design for the Lion King Jr. along with many others who deserve credit.
That includes her mom Kelly Taylor, who stepped up as the head costume designer.
“I have thrown some pretty big challenges her way this year—I’ve shown her pictures and she’s just kind of ran with it,” said Edwards.
“She’s been putting in hours of sewing each day.”
Members of the grassland ensemble wore 10 by 17-inch pieces of styrofoam on their heads with grass pieces in it.
Charlotte Groome gets the credit for set design of the Pride Rock Throne for the Lion King while other volunteers built a huge 15 foot sun that rose above the stage.
Edwards said the sets were pretty amazing this year.
She also singles out the work of Lakeland’s vocal teacher and production coach Adam Keller and her stage manager Tori Smith, a former voice student.
“So we kind of bring people back in to be a part of these productions,” she said.
As for what’s next Edwards said, “I usually have two or three shows in mind to do after this one, so it never stops.”