Lion King Production is the 'Mane' Event
Friday, 28 June 2019
As the school year came to a close, the ‘mane’ event at the Junior Boys’ School was the highly anticipated Year 6 production of Disney’s The Lion King. Audiences in the Girls’ Division Theatre were transported to Africa with a combination of brilliant singing, accomplished acting and fantastic costumes created with some help from Senior Girls’ School pupil volunteers.
Mr A Bovill reviews the production:
Well, I think I can safely say that this is the first play I have seen that began with a trailer! (Mr Morris’ description following initial minor technical difficulties with the sound system at Thursday’s performance. Normal, or should I say outstanding, service was soon resumed). The courageous move to re-start the play was taken. It was the right move and the first of many.
We were instantly transported to the wild plains of the African savannah. Enthused rather than deflated by the hitch, Year-6 belted into the first musical number, ‘The Circle of Life’ – a spectacular display of costume, voice and above all gusto, as all the animals arrived on stage. The excitement was palpable.
The essence of the story is about the circle of life; knowing one day we will all grow up and that the baton of knowledge and wisdom will be passed on to us from our fathers, so the legacy lives on. The play explores sibling rivalry and rites of passage and the tensions, jealousies and conniving that this can stir within families … including murderous intent. The casting was inspired. Each actor played to their strengths when portraying their character. This brought them to life and made them all the more authentic. Costumes were a fantastic blend of mask and attire, combined with creative make-up to perfect visual effect, allowing us to see both actor and character simultaneously, with no loss of magic! Scenery and backdrops were understated and highly effective.
Our spiritual guide through the musical was deftly delivered by Suhayb Valli playing Rafiki, a wise mandrill. He appeared at key points to provide words of wisdom and clarity, carrying his role with great presence. The jealous, insecure and scheming villain of the play, Scar, was handled with tremendous contempt and disdain by Ed Goodfellow. Scar is the character we love to hate. Ed’s performance was always strong and quietly menacing.
I loved the pomposity and self-importance of Zazu, perfectly portrayed with a maturity beyond his years by Eesa Chariwala. He is seen desperately trying to keep his young charge, Simba, safe from manipulation by Scar and his cackle of feckless hyenas, led by Shenzi, Banzai and Ed. Lead hyenas Freddie Bovill, Haider Abbas and Rory Hodgson clearly enjoyed their roles, doing Scar’s bidding with great comic effect and with gleeful and oleaginous delight! Adam Winter was perfect as the playful cub, Simba, with a devil-may-care attitude that was intoxicating to all watching. The transition to his older more considered-self was carried out with a subtlety that served to stimulate the imagination. Nathan Pierson who took the role as the older Simba has a very natural performance style and is clearly talented. Watch this space.
Mufasa, the King of the Pride and ill-fated leader, was performed with poise and confidence by Harry Butler. He was able to convey the great responsibility that went with the character’s role, whilst desperately wanting the best for his son, not unlike all of us sat watching.
Nala, Simba’s best friend, was played by both Kai Jepson and Keeran Singh. Kai was the young cub, keen to be around her friend and always besting him in their play-fights. Later Keeran stepped up to the plate and provided concerned voice and heartfelt emotion to the older Nala in Act Two. Pumbaa and Timon (Ayaan Akiff and Alex Pearce) provided welcome comic relief at the end of the first act and beginning of the second as the easy-going outsiders. This delighted the audience. Sparring off each other, Ayaan and Alex worked well as a team and it showed, especially when introducing Simba to the concept of ‘Hakuna Matata’ (no worries).
As with all good yarns, order is restored and the bad guys are sent away with a flea in their collective ear and the rightful King is back in place, restoring law and order … phew!
The all boys sang beautifully and with true conviction throughout the night in words of Swahili, Zulu, Sesotho and Setswana. The songs were stirring and the rhythm and tempo greatly enhanced by the fantastic group of drummers comprised of Marty Arnot-Smith, Kelsey Liu, Kush Patel and Kyran Chitre, all creating that idiosyncratic Afro-beat.
As with the cast, the audience went wild!
All in all, a fantastic achievement for pupils and school alike and much enjoyed by the audiences on all three nights. The confidence found in all performances can be attributed to the culmination of the school’s and the boys’ collective work throughout their years at Park Road.
The choice of musical play was apposite and inspired, given our Year 6 boys’ next adventure. It suggested some of the challenges and achievements they might experience when joining the ‘big beasts’ in Senior School and the knowledge and wisdom they will carry with them.
‘Hakuna Matata’ people! Enjoy the summer, boys, and all the best in senior school.
View a gallery with more photos here.
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