(Posted Oct. 30, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
They’ve learned songs in different languages. They’ve figured out how to fight and fall while balancing masks on their heads. They’ve even learned how to act like grass swaying in the breeze.
The cast of London Middle School’s production of “The Lion King Jr.” is ready to take audiences on a journey through the African savannah. Show times are 7 p.m. Nov. 8-9 and 2 p.m. Nov. 10 in the London High School auditorium. Tickets are $7 at the door.
“I’ve wanted to do a Disney show for a long time. This show has always made my top-three shows to pick each year, but there was always something that made me choose another production. This year it worked for us,” said Tim Tanner, the show’s director and London City Schools’ vocal music teacher for grades 6-12.
“The Lion King Jr.” follows the adventures of Simba, a young lion and heir to his father, Mufasa. Simba’s wicked uncle, Scar, plots to usurp Mufasa’s throne by luring the father and son into a stampede of wildebeests. Simba escapes, but Mufasa is killed. Simba returns as an adult to take back his homeland from Scar with help from his friends, Timon, an outgoing meerkat, and Pumbaa, a proud warthog.
A cast of 30 students brings the story to life. Among them is eighth-grader Josh Lickliter, who is having a ball playing Simba, a character that grows up through the course of the show.
“It’s fun being able to progress as a character,” he said. “It’s also interesting playing a character that isn’t human. I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes!”
Lickliter also is enjoying all of the music and choreography.
“I really like the stampede scene. I get to run around and see my dad get killed. I know that sounds gory, but it’s fun,” said the excited young thespian.
Kaelyn Thoman, an eighth-grader who plays Rafiki, a wise mandrill (member of the monkey family), shares Lickliter’s enthusiasm.
“It’s such a fun show to do on stage. And even when we are backstage, we are mouthing the words and dancing to it,” Thoman said.
Among the popular songs from the show are “Hakuna Matata,” “Circle of Life” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”
Other students playing lead roles are: sixth-grader Tate Wilson as Scar; seventh-grader Ethan Davitt as Mufasa; seventh-grader Kenna Miller as Timon; eighth-grader Makayla Prince as Pumbaa; seventh-grader Isabella Kerry as Nala, Simba’s best friend; and eighth-grader Lauren Peters as Zazu, a prim and proper (and annoying) hornbill bird.
A dozen parents and teachers, along with a handful of high school students, are pitching in behind the scenes.
“Costumes play a critical role in telling this story,” Tanner said. “We were able to find some really nice masks for some of the characters to use, borrowed from Springfield Arts Council, and our costume moms are working very hard this year.”