NA middle schoolers presenting ‘Disney’s Lion King, Jr.’
The African savannah will come to life with Simba, Rafiki, and an unforgettable cast of characters as they journey from Pride Rock to the jungle… and back again during the North Allegheny Middle School musical, “Disney’s Lion King Jr.” on Dec. 7 to 9 at the senior high school.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.NAmusical.com for $14 plus a $2 service fee for each. A free senior citizens performance will be held Dec. 5 at 3:30 p.m.
This 75-minute adaptation of the award-winning Broadway musical and 1994 animated film of the same name features vibrant costuming, creative puppetry, lively choreography, memorable music by Elton John and Tim Rice, and an inspiring and timeless coming-of-age story line.
“The singing is good, the acting is good, the dancing is good, and the story is good. It’s the complete package,” said eighth-grader Kiran Szymkowiak, 14, of Marshall. He plays Simba, the lion cub who grows up to be king.
“This is the best Disney show ever. The musical has more songs than the movie, and the whole show is cinematic in that it constantly moves along. There are no dimming of lights or curtain drops. It’s constant motion,” said director Rob James, who previously has directed more than 70 musicals at Carlynton High School and Stage 62 community theater, both in Carnegie.
Costume supervisor Ahlam Weidman is tasked with securing in excess of 100 costumes for the show. Some will be rented, a few were donated, and the rest — including 30 butterfly wings — will be sewn from scratch, she said.
“We also hope to use about 10 puppets and 30 wildebeest heads that will be hand-held in some fashion,” she added.
Tori Clune, a 2017 NA graduate who danced in four NA high school musicals and now teaches at Tammy’s School of Dance in Wexford, is the choreographer.
“The choreography in this show is very challenging. It’s not your typical Broadway musical dancing of jazz and tap. It’s contemporary African movements. It’s fast. There are lots of direction changes. Plus, the kids have to act and sing and dance and smile all at the same time,” she said. “But they’ve shown they’re quick learners.”
Approximately 120 middle school students auditioned for the show; just 63 were cast. Many who did not get stage roles found jobs behind the scenes within 24 hours, according to artistic director Bob Tozier, chairman of NA’s music department.
High school students in art, tech ed, multi-media arts, and robotics classes are creating the scenery, backdrops, and props, including a motorized Pride Rock, complete with pistons and hydraulics to allow it to be remotely controlled to rotate on stage for dramatic effect.
The middle school students have spent upwards of 100 hours in rehearsal since September.
“Middle school kids are
150 percent energy. The greatest joy is that they’re little balls of energy. They’d be here every day if we let them,” Tozier said.
“The sheer talent of these kids is amazing,” James added. “They don’t know what they don’t know, so when we ask them to do something new, they just go out there and do it. They’re fearless.”
This will be NA’s second middle school musical production. The first, presented last year, was “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” which drew an audience of 2,969 people.
Laurie Rees is a