Draper Park Middle students to perform “Lion King”
The cast of “The Lion King, Jr.” at Draper Park Middle School rehearses before they take the stage in March. (Jessica Pearce/Draper Park Middle School)
About 250 students have been preparing since November to take the stage in March for Draper Park Middle School’s production of Disney’s “The Lion King, Jr.”
The show will be held Tuesday, March 7 through Saturday, March 11 in the school’s auditorium, 13133 S. 1300 East. For ticket information, contact the school office.
Some leading parts of the play are double cast. The leads include Baylee Johnson and Isaak Remund as Pumbaa; Aimee Johnson and Whitney Lang as Timon; Ian McMullen as Simba; Isaac Lewis as Young Simba; Jack Pollock and Mason Dodge as Mufasa and Spencer Croston as Scar.
The show will be directed by Jessica Pearce, with guest choreographers Candice Wilson, Phaidra Atkinson and Case Spaulding.
Pearce said she selected this show with the middle school students in mind.
“The material is both challenging and beautiful,” she said. “‘The Lion King’ is basically Disney’s happy version of ‘Hamlet,’ and as such it actually has some complex themes — mortality, the circle of life, we live on through others.”
Although many students are familiar with the Disney movie, Pearce said this production is more similar to the Broadway version.
“It’s more African than animal — don’t expect fake tails and noses. It’s a much more intimate version. It’s tribal,” she said.
The show begins with Rafiki gathering the animals of the Pridelands to welcome Simba, the newborn cub of King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi. However, the king’s brother, Scar, becomes jealous that he no longer is heir to the throne so he skips the ceremony.
Time passes and Young Simba learns the circle of life and that he one day will be king. When Scar learns this, he encourages Young Simba to visit the forbidden Elephant Graveyard. Young Simba is joined by Young Nala, his best friend. On their own, the cubs encounter the ravenous hyenas, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, only to be rescued by the king. Scar emerges from the darkness and recruits the hyenas to murder the king.
Once again, Scar lures Young Simba to be left alone only to alert his brother, who rescues Young Simba, but is pushed into the gorge and trampled. Scar blames his nephew for the death and tells him to run away, thus assuming the throne and nearly destroying the Pridelands.
Now grown, Nala leaves to seek help and encounters Simba, urging him to take his place as King. Rafiki appears and helps Simba to gain courage to confront his uncle. Once the truth of Mufasa’s murder is revealed, Scar runs away, pursued by angry hyenas, and Simba takes his rightful place as king and the circle of life continues.
Students began rehearsing in November for the school musical. Most students dedicated about three hours per week and learned to adjust their other extra-curricular activities and homework to meet the responsibilities of rehearsals.
“Theater helps students become college- and career-ready by teaching highly desirable skills such as creativity, teamwork, interpersonal skills, adaptability, problem-solving and effective communication skills,” Pearce said.