The Adelaide Youth Theatre team know what’s what when it comes to encouraging young performers and bringing forth a smooth, confident performance from them when on stage. This production of The Lion King was yet another convincing illustration of that.
I saw the Hakuna cast and was very taken with their enthusiasm and skills. So, be it known, were the many small children in the matinee audience. They were rapt during the big choruses and the moments of tension and drama, but also when the music and voices slowed and the action became more reflective. Clearly this Tim Rice and Elton John musical continues to accurately find the heart and interest of its target audience.
But it wouldn’t do that if the company wasn’t up to its demands. This one certainly was. Director Taylor Tran, who was also co-Musical Director with Serena Cann, had schooled the cast well in both singing and acting. All that is against the background of an interrupted rehearsal period and continuing sickness within the cast. Covid notwithstanding, they did an exceptional job.
Harrison Thomas and Mila Shin were delightful as the young Simba and Nala, and were replaced by equally convincing performances from Bernard Flynn and Bridget Tran as their adult versions. Henry Tran was kind, noble and understanding as Mufasa. By contrast, James Farquhar as Scar was villainous and slyly menacing, using his clearly articulated voice to good effect. In his evil, he was abetted by good performances from Gabriel Laurentiadis, Madelin Wilholt and Otis Mullan as the hyenas.
On the lighter side, Harry Ince and Nicholas Latella were energetic and very funny as Pumbaa and Timon. Their sense of comic timing and good physicality were important strengths in the roles. Yana Panayotova was consistent and reliable as the uptight royal adviser Zazu, and Christina Farndale Mujema was convincing and wise as Rafiki.
The ensemble work was well coordinated. The six principal dancers were exceptional, showing grace and empathy in their routines both in the songs and during the scene change sequences. For that work, take a bow Choreographers Matilda Hambidge-Hay and Erryn Anderson.
All credit to the AYT for their continuing contribution to the development of youth performing arts.