Audience reaction said it all as Cambridge Middle School’s production of The Lion King Jr ran to sell-out audiences earlier this month.
“It was just outstanding,” said Hamilton music therapist Shona How, summing up the feeling from last Thursday’s crowd.
“It was better than the Sydney one that we saw when the Lion King first came out because of the standard of every single student’s performance, including the backstage people. And they’re only intermediate-aged children, that’s the beautiful thing.”
Based on an animated 1994 Disney film, The Lion King Jr stage musical is set in the African savannah and tells the redemption story of young lion cub Simba, who loses his way following the devastating loss of his beloved father Mufasa.
Spectacular make-up, stunning costumes and high-energy performances from an accomplished cast combined to impress the audience right off the bat as towering giraffes walking on stilts and enormous elephants made their way through a swirl of other African animals to the beat of Elton John’s hit song Circle of Life.
“Our ensemble played an integral role in creating the African atmosphere,” said director and CMS arts department head Tracey Andrews.
“We had over 110 students on stage with a further 30 in the band and technical roles.”
The show’s fifteen leads were outstanding, with Georgie Brown and Sylvie Keightley playing cheeky lion cubs Young Simba and Young Nala and Nick Jones and Eliza Hobby adult Simba and Nala.
Niamh Hartley took the part of wise leader Mufasa, while Hazel Tocker skulked across the stage as his deliciously evil brother Scar, supported by Molly Harvey, Poppy Fox-Worthington and Sanna Heebink as hyena henchmen Banzai, Ed and Shenzi.
Other lead lions were Molly Macdiarmid and Brooke Cameron, playing Simba’s and Nala’s mothers Sarabi and Sarafina.
Providing light relief after the dark scenes of Mufasa’s untimely death were Luka Lees and Turongonui Chase as loveable comic duo Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the gaseous warthog. Madi Roberts played mandrill Rafiki and Lucy Forrest Zazu the red-billed hornbill.
An ensemble of giraffes, rhinos, elephants, gazelles, zebras, birds, tigers, hyenas, wildebeests and a cheetah ably supported the leads, along with graceful grassland and lioness dancers.
Dozens of other students lent their talents as choir, drumline, band and crew members, contributing to a slick performance that had audience members enthralled from the show’s effervescent beginning to its rousing finale.
With musical direction by Anna Johnson and choreography by Katie Van Dyk, The Lion King Jr ran from July 2-4.