Disney’s The Lion King Jr – The Parks Youth Theatre

Disney’s The Lion King Jr – The Parks Youth Theatre

This production had dual casts in the principal roles, the King cast and the Pride cast. In the interests of fairness to all, we reviewed both casts.

Forget all other Disney Jr shows. Put them in Aladdin’s magic lamp, make sure that it is well and truly frozen and throw it under the sea to be guarded by little mermaids – Disney The Lion King Jr is the true King of the jungle.

The Circle of Life was turning very smoothly with this production at the Parks Theatre by The Parks Youth Theatre. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Ceri Hutton has lovingly directed the production making sure that each and every cast member shines, and that they display their talents, giving the audience a great, enjoyable time.

Hutton has given us a brilliant beautiful world of imagination and creativity along with Choreographer Bec Schembri and Vocal Coach Kat Jade. Schembri infuses the show with what seems like traditional African dance that the two casts perform well, especially Charlie O’Hanlon (more about this young lad later). She also has traditional musical theatre styles dotted throughout. Jade manages to get some incredible vocals out of the two casts as well (I don’t sing that well at 64 years of age, let alone when I was very young).

The Production Team’s creativity shows all the way through the hour long show, but in particular the Wilderbeast scene and the magnificent, imaginative costumes, props and headgear. The prop makers are too numerous to mention by name – there are 10 of them – but are the creators of easily recognisable birds, zebras, gazelles and an elephant. The young cast are adorned with the most magnificent headdresses thanks to the brilliance of Amanda Hassett, Caitlin Hassett, Ceri Hutton, the Parks staff and the children’s families.

Special call out to the unseen, very busy stage crew and the fantastic, smoothly flowing projected graphics designed by Kristian Latella.

I was lucky enough to review both casts, so here they are below.

KING cast

This production started with little Katrina Alejo as Baboon Rafiki standing dead still on Pride Rock (the Park’s Theatre 1 Balcony) singing in a voice almost twice her size and a lone male dancer impressing us with his beautifully flowing, precise movements (as he did every time he appeared). Then, when Young Simba (Ethan Stewart) turns into the older Simba, it turned out to be this young male dancer, Charlie O’Hanlon. Charlie was Simba in both casts (King and Pride) and was sensational in both. This young man has the makings of a true triple threat – he can dance, sing and act up a storm. It was an excellent performance and made one wonder what a bright future he should have in front of him if he  keeps up this momentum. His cat like movements and inquisitive glances and alert eye movements were spot on. As were Ethan’s as Young Simba. Because his Simba is young, Ethan was suitably eager and frisky and believably kittenish. As with Charlie, Ethan’s vocals were strong and his small touches of comedy endearing.

Sammy Otero Duran was delightful as Young Nala and an equal match to Ethan whilst Molly Halls as the older Nala worked well with Charlie. Their duet “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” was just beautiful. Alex Carpenter and CJ Parkinson as comedic duo Timon and Pumba respectively were hilarious and both showed excellent comic timing. The villain of the piece, Scar, was deliciously devilish as played by Rebecca Gillard and her three Hyena henchmen were very, very funny as played by Brock Warner (Banzai), Thomas Mendes (Shenzi) and Jeremy Bowling).

Dylan Wilkinson (Mufasa), Avi Larid (Zazu), Isabelle Matulick (Sarabi) and Leah Harrald (Sarafina) rounded the main characters off well. With 9 Lionesses and 9 Ensemble it is impossible to name every one, but trust me, each and everyone of them added to the experience in a truly professional way.

PRIDE cast

Charlie O’Hanlon was equally good as Simba and the male dance solo in this cast as well. Scarlett Cornwell was a strong Mufasa whilst Naomi Bishop was one of the most dastardly villians as Scar that I have ever seen. Maddy Brookes was a delightful Young Simba and worked well with Gracie Cheung as Young Nala. Rosa Forrest was appropriately officious as Major Domo, Zazu. Meri Wagland as Rafiki impressed greatly with her powerful vocals, as did Isha Wilson with her beautiful and soaring vocals as Nala. Chanel White (Banzai), Hayley Breeze (Shenzi), Lucy Harding (Ed), Daisy Scarman (Timon) and Sybilla Scarman (Pumba) all gave the audience some wonderful comic moments. Chloe Cooke and Emma Kenya were nicely motherly as Sarabi and Sarafina respectively.

As in the Lion cast, there were 18 Lionesses and Ensemble and all were worth their weight in animal costumes and Savannah Grass (another great inventive costume).

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