Kids, teens in Draper Historic Theatre’s Youth Council stage Disney’s ‘The Lion King Jr.’Jul 06, 2021 03:48PM ● By Katherine Weinstein
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
Members of the Draper Historic Theatre Youth Council are getting hands-on experience in the art of theater behind the scenes in this month’s production of Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.” Aided by adult mentors from the board of Draper Historic Theatre, the teens are directing, stage managing, choreographing and building the puppet-like costumes for their own special take on the Disney classic.
Draper Historic Theatre has had a Youth Council on and off for the past 15 years. The theater’s board members work closely with the Youth Council members on shows to help the kids keep all the moving components of a theatrical production on track.
“‘The Lion King’ is a really big production. We knew it would be a popular show,” said co-director and Youth Council member Sasha Southwick. “When we need help, we get it.”
Sasha explained that their production of “The Lion King Jr.” has more music than the classic Disney animated film but is also different from the Broadway musical version. “We’re trying to make it our own,” she said.
Her twin brother, Roman, is co-directing. “We wanted to do a bit of both, a mix of the movie and the stage show, so older people and younger people will enjoy it,” Roman said. “It has some darker themes but we’re trying to make it more lighthearted for littler kids. It’s definitely a show for everyone.”
The twins, who attend classes at Alta High School, have backgrounds in acting and dance but have enjoyed directing. “The best thing about being a director is seeing your ideas come to life but also seeing how the actors grow in the course of the production,” Roman observed.
“The Lion King Jr.” has many opportunities for its young cast to spread their wings. Emma Colburn, who plays the friendly warthog, Pumbaa, explained that the Draper Historic Theatre production will incorporate wearable puppet-like costumes to transform the actors into their animal characters. “It will be like Broadway, but Draper-sized,” she said with a laugh. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it goes.”
Learning how to manipulate the puppets and move like animals while singing and acting will be a new and unique experience for the actors. Sasha Southwick commended them for their hard work. “The cast is really, really great,” she said. “We have a great group of kids.”
Like many productions at Draper Historic Theatre, “The Lion King Jr.” is double-cast. Two of the actors playing lead roles are performing double-duty in both casts.
Gabe Alger, a sophomore at Corner Canyon High School, is playing the villainous Scar in one cast and Simba as an adult in the other. “The biggest challenge is memorizing all the lines,” Alger said. “When you’re playing a part, you have to really know the character to impersonate them.”
He feels that while Scar is the villain, he has figured out the character’s motivations. “Scar feels like an outcast,” Alger explained. “But at the end of the day, he just wants power for the sake of power.”
Brad Green, a senior at Alta High School, has taken on the role of Scar in one cast and plays Mufasa in the other. “I like playing Scar more because he’s a bigger character,” Green said. “I like playing the bad guy. It’s kind of fun getting into that mindset.”
At the same time, he enjoys the song he gets to perform as Mufasa. “It’s a pretty song,” Green said. “It’s a lot of fun. I love doing theater!”
Fun and friendship is what making theater is all about for many in the cast. Chloe Norris, who plays the laidback meerkat, Timon, said, “I like the community. Once you’re in theater you always have a friend—even if you’ve only talked to them like once!”
Friendship is a major theme of the show itself. Some of the teens have found other meanings in “The Lion King Jr.” as well. “I think the theme is ‘never give up on yourself,’” Sasha Southwick said.
Green summed up his take on the show’s message. “Don’t think bad of yourself because of what you did in the past,” he said, referring to the lion Simba who tries to run away from his past mistakes. “You have to look at the future and make something of yourself. Don’t let the past define you.”
The Draper Historic Theatre Youth Council will present Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.” July 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16, 17 and 19 at 7 p.m. with additional matinee performances at 2 p.m. on July 10 and 17. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 S. 900 East. The ticket hotline is 801-572-4144 during performance weeks. Tickets may also be purchased via the theatre website at www.drapertheatre.org.