Young performers breathe life into Lion King musical

Author: Tracy Saunders

Published: November 19th 2019

There are not enough adjectives to describe the spectacle that was the Lion King jr performed by The Nelson Youth Theatre Company.

My jaw dropped as the larger than life animals sauntered into the theatre and transported us to the African desert. Each time another animal entered you could hear the kids in the audience screaming with delight.

An elephant complete with flapping ears, giraffes, zebras, antelope and hippos were just the beginning of this incredible production.

This is the story of Mufasa the Lion King and his young son Simba who should succeed his father as King but is deceived by his evil uncle Scar into believing he killed his father and should leave the kingdom and never come back.

It is the story of becoming a good leader with wonderful life lessons for audience members.

There were some standout performances especially by Samuel Clark who played Scar – his intonation, powerful vocals and expressions were always on point. Ben Thomas who played both Mufasa and Simba had the deep booming voice needed for Mufasa while also taking it down a notch to play a younger version of Simba.

It is really the chorus in this show that needs to be commended. They added depth and beautiful harmony to all of the wonderful songs in the show – it is hard to believe that the oldest cast members were only 14 years old as the way they vocalized gave me goosebumps.

Pumba (Kiriana Little) and Timon (Devan Gavin) had it right when they said “no worries for the rest of your days…”

If this is what we can expect of youth theatre then these kids have a bright future and we as an audience will be thoroughly entertained.

REVIEW: Lion King Jr at Theatre Royal

Author: Tami Mansfield

Published: November 19th 2019

The Lion King Jr opened for its second run this year at the Theatre Royal on Monday evening, directed by Richard Carruthers.

This spectacular production features mesmerising lifelike and life-size giraffes created by the talented Megan Birss and Karl and Faye Wulff, a mind-blowing elephant created by Mel Harnetty, hippos, rhinos and more.

The design is faultless. In no order of importance: The lighting design is extremely pretty – stars in the sky, a buttery sun – warm and delightful – that slowly rises upstage, and the glow-in-the-dark elephant graveyard is to die for.

The costumes, masks and set are worthy of the ticket price alone. A highlight is one talented teen actor, playing the villain Scar, the gifted Samuel Clark. Sam makes a full physical and vocal transformation and the result is delicious and jaw-droppingly good.

The music in the Lion King is a winner – written by Elton John and Tim Rice with classic songs such as Can you Feel the Love Tonight and Circle of Life. Music director Melanie Carruthers never disappoints, because the singing is strong and clear as are the harmonies that beautifully fill the theatre.

Manu Wotton has excellent diction as Zazu, Devan Gavin (Timon) and Kiriana Little (Pumba) get big laughs with the audience. Mufasa (Simba’s father) is played by Ben Thomas with great compassion and love and was a big hit with both my kids.

Both young Simba (Jake Beekmeyer) and young Nala (Mia Harnetty) have a joyful relationship on stage and are lots of fun to watch.

The Lion King Jr runs for just one fantastic hour and with an early 6pm start from November 19 – 22 and both a 6pm and 8pm show on Friday.

This production is wonderful family entertainment and not to be missed.