‘The Lion King Jr.’: Short, But Sweet


Alana DeRose

Simba (Jaden Smith) and Nala (Jazmin Rhodes) standing on top of pride rock after defeating Scar (Ronald Gerring)

Alana DeRose, Staff Writer

Through Nov. 17-19, H-F Theater showcased their new musical “The Lion King Jr.” directed by fine arts teacher J.R. Willard-Rose, to a sold out audience and great success. 

This musical was a reenactment of the 1994 Disney cartoon ‘The Lion King’, packed with all of the movie’s beloved songs. This and the spirit of the play made it great….but the crazy dramatic effects of rocks shooting from the ground were sadly not a possibility in this remake. 

Part of what makes the cartoon “Lion King” so great is the dramatic effects mixed into every scene, making it 10 times more interesting and moments like Mufasa’s death 10 times sadder. Due to the limitation of the stage the scenes felt shorter than what you would expect if deciding to watch the movie. 

However, despite these uncontrollable flaws, the musical was still wonderfully put together by the Fine Arts Department. 

One thing is for sure: I loved the costumes. Imagine: students walking on stilts, dressed as giraffes, intense makeup to bring to life the animal kingdom. 

What amazed me the most was that the giraffes were walking around on stilts. I never expected that much detail just on costumes to come from a high school play, but nonetheless this is H-F we’re talking about and they don’t hold back when it comes to their theater performances. 

Another cool thing about the performance is how the actors didn’t limit their performance to the stage, but also used the audience to carry out their performance, too. In the beginning of the musical cast members dressed up as doves and gazelles came down the aisles as they made their way to the stage. 

The musical starts off just like the movie, with the introduction of baby Simba, with ‘The Circle of Life’ playing in the background. 

This scene was absolutely amazing. The scene was packed with actors playing animals, while Sophomore, Charisma Boler, who portrayed Rafiki, made the piece come to life with her singing. 

After a well deserved round of applause and quick scene change, the audience was introduced to the other main characters, which included: Scar who was perfectly portrayed by sophomore Ronald Gerring sophomore, Zazu who was portrayed by sophomore Madison Vitolka, Mufasa played by sophomore Cayden Speerbecker, young Simba played by freshman Gabriel McKinney and young Nala portrayed by freshman Stella Hoyt

In this collection of scenes we see Scar’s infamous manipulation, Simba’s extreme curiosity, Zazu’s nagging, Mufasa’s unexplainable nobleness, Nala and Simba’s great friendship and one of the best songs in the movie, ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’

The way McKinney and Hoyt’s voices harmonized during this scene was amazing and really gave life to the piece along with the dancing by the ensemble. 

We then move on and are introduced to the three hyenas Shenzi (sophomore Emma Leak), Banzai (Harmoni McKinney) and Ed (freshman Tessa O’Keefe). 

This is one of the many moments in the movie where the dramatic effects truly defined the song and not the singing itself. Nothing was wrong with ‘Be Prepared’ other than that it felt too short.

Another scene that missed the dramatic effect was Mufasa’s death. The set was set up at the rear of the stage so I really couldn’t see what was happening. However, there was an animated backdrop of the wildebeests running which was pretty cool. 

In the next couple scenes, we’re introduced to the best characters in the Lion King, Timon (junior Sullivan Matthys) and Pumbaa (freshman Bryce Stewart) and their iconic song ‘Hakuna Matata’

I was dancing in my seat to the music; this was truly one of the best songs in the production. We also get to see the transition from Simba as a kid to an adult. The audience saw the transformation of Simba through a change of actors: from a young Simba played by McKinney to an adult played by senior Jaden Smith 

The next scene was brief, leading up to the introduction of adult Nala (sophomore Jazmin Rhodes) and the song ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’

I honestly don’t remember too much about this scene as I was too entranced by the song itself. The singing by both Rhodes and Smith were amazing and gave life to the theater. 

During the last bit of the musical, the performance expanded beyond the stage. Scenes such as Simba running back to Pride Rock and Scar running away from the hyenas used the audience as their stage, making the musical more lively. 

All in all, from the costumes, to the singing, the performance was amazing, and I can’t wait to see another H-F Theater production.