MUSCATINE, Iowa–This February, local students will take the stage and transform the Iowa winter into summer on the African savannah through their production of “The Lion King Jr.” An adaptation of both the movie and the full length musical of the same name, “The Lion King Jr.” follows the journey of Simba the lion from his childhood in the Pridelands, to his flight to the jungle after his uncle, Scar, kills his father, Mufasa, and usurps the throne, to his return as an adult to take his kingdom back. A contemporary musical classic, students will present “The Lion King Jr.” Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Muscatine Performing Arts Center (the former Central Middle School Auditorium) at 901 Cedar Street in Muscatine.
As Joanna Brewer, one of the co-directors for “The Lion King Jr.,” started looking at musicals that could suit this year’s group of students, she and her co-director from the previous year felt “The Lion King Jr.” offered a perfect fit. Since rehearsals began the last week of November 2022, Brewer has enjoyed watching seventh grade students experience the magic of their first junior high school musical and eighth graders returning for their second year continue to improve their singing, dancing, and acting skills and to gain confidence in their abilities. “I love the music in this, and it’s been a lot of fun to see the kids embrace their characters and the kids from last year to see their growth,” Brewer reflected.
A unique aspect of “The Lion King Jr.,” actors often use specialized costume pieces and even puppets to help transform themselves into the animals they depict. A new experience for many of the young actors, getting used to all the unique headpieces, costume elements, and puppets the show incorporates has presented a challenge. However, Brewer feels confident the students will soon feel comfortable with these new additions and use them to full effect in their performances.
As students have prepared for opening night, they have had a lot of fun along the way, trying something new and making friends in the process. Garrick Fillmore, a seventh grader playing adult Simba shared, “this year, I am just focusing on trying new things and I thought it would be fun–I’m just broadening my range of activities.”
Mariah Williams, an eighth grader performing as adult Nala reflected on how acting in her second musical has helped her meet some of her goals and connect with her theatre friends. She said she most enjoyed, “being a lead part and getting to make friends with all the cast and being in my dream role in a junior musical.”
With “The Lion King Jr. about to open, Brewer encourages everyone to come out and support Muscatine’s young actors. “We all worked really hard on this and it would be great for the kids to have a full house,” she emphasized. Tickets for each show cost $5 a piece for everyone ages six and up. Theatre goers may purchase tickets at the door or buy them in advance at the Susan Clark Junior High School office at 600 Kindler Avenue in Muscatine.