This production featured dual casts. TASA reviewed both casts.
Kym Clayton reviewed the Hakuna cast.
Adapted for young performers, The Lion King Kids is a heavily abridged version of the stage musical The Lion King, which in turn is an adaptation of the Disney film. The music and lyrics are by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, and Hans Zimmer. The book is by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.
The storyline has real gravitas, with the plot partially based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Just as the life of Prince Hamlet is profoundly shaped by the murder of his father, the King, at the hands of his uncle, the King’s brother, so the life of Simba the lion is similarly impacted by the death of Mufasa, his father the king, who is killed by his uncle Scar. Having said that, the show is still cute, with child actors dressed up as assorted animals strutting their stuff on stage.
NOW Productions is based in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, and specialises in youth productions and events, and their production of The Lion King Kids at the Shedley Theatre is unashamedly fun. The production elements are unsophisticated – no special effects, a sparse set, simple costumes – but the energy on stage from the large cast of more than fifty kids is enough to power the City of Playford in a blackout. The principal cast comprises fourteen named characters performed by two alternating separate teams. Tonight’s performance featured the Hakuna cast.
Before the show started, the audience was treated to a concert of sorts, with members of the cast singing no fewer than seven songs from musicals and other genres, and a full production number from the cast of The Addams Family, which is NOW’s next musical. Although this reviewer’s purpose is to focus on the performance of The Lion King Kids, it would be remiss not to briefly comment on the quality of this part of the program. In particular, Anna McIntyre’s performance of I Have a Dream was sublime.
The production team is also mostly youth, with direction by Alex Richardson and Emily Cumming, music direction by Maisy Jo Russell, choreography by Ella Ashenden, stage management by Lily Cotton, production and set design by Joe Russell, wardrobe by Lynda Cook and Kylie Mobbs (who also managed hairdressing and make-up), and sound by Bryce Young and Harry Rouse. The program also lists special thanks to forty-four others, and support from Cloudy Davey (vocal coach). So, the entire cast, production team and ‘helpers’ number close to one hundred, and this is all from a theatre group for youth by youth! Why doesn’t this make the TV news?!
Bravo, brava, bravissimo!
Elton John and Tim Rice’s music and songs are eminently singable for youthful voices, and the ensemble and named characters fill the Shedley with toe tapping joie de vivre.
In the Hakuna cast, Josh Roberts plays the lead role Simba with regal composure. Saskia Jones plays his sweetheart Nala with affection, confidence, and joy. Belle Coulson and Georgia Lauro play Young Simba and Young Nala with sweetness and playful innocence. Amelie Cowley and Phoebe Clark share the role of Rafiki, and their timing in delivering their overlapping dialogue is excellent. Kyle Mobbs was evil personified as Scar, and was the standout. He has a strong and commanding presence on stage and a good singing voice. As good as Mobbs is, he is almost upstaged by the comedic antics of Elijah Proctor and Tyler Gibson as Timon and Pumbaa. They are comedy gold. Oliver Calver plays Mufasa, Simba’s father, and his characterisation during He Lives in You was quite affecting. Alex Carpenter plays Zasu, the red-billed hornbill, with all the neuroses that a majordomo should have. (His makeup was terrific.) Aubrey Gibson plays Sarabi with dutiful affection. Annabelle Davies plays Shenzi, the leader of the clan of hyenas, with suitable meanness and slyness, and is ably assisted by Molly Richardson as Banza and Lucas Mentha as Ed.
As intimated above, the singing is exuberant and tuneful for the most part, and the cast does well to sing along to the recorded backing music with no onstage conductor to cue them in. No mean feat! The choreography is simple, and for the most part well executed. The set is minimalist, and the extra detail flown in for Hakuna Matata was particularly effective, as was the combination of lighting, haze, and sound effects during He Lives in You.
The iconic W.C.Fields coined the phrase “never work with children or animals”, and this production of The Lion King Kids had both, and it was a blast!
Jacqui Wall reviewed the Matata cast.
NOW Productions are fast becoming one of the premiere youth production companies for Musicals in South Australia. Not only are the productions cast principally by youth members, generally with two casts to provide more youth the experience and opportunity, but the Productions Teams are all very much young adults – one as young as 16 in this show.
The Lion King commenced with assorted animals cavorting through the audience to the opening song One By One as they entered and gathered around Pride Rock for the introduction of the future king. It never ceases to amaze me the creative talent around Adelaide especially in the costume field. To come up with characters which we all know are not real, but leave us in no doubt they are a giraffe or an elephant was outstanding.
In this performance it was the Matata Cast in the principal roles. Oliver Calver playing Simba with Amelie Cowley as his sweetheart Nala. Carter Penley is Young Simba with an exuberant amount of cheekiness and Bella Hellawell, his partner in crime as Young Nala. Rafiki was played by Saskia Jones and Ariah Roberts, another example of creating opportunity for everyone to have a go. Kyle Mobbs was a very regal Mufasa and Khushi Choudhari was the arch nemesis and evil brother Scar. Khushi’s vocals were amazing in Be Prepared. The comedy relief in this show has to be Timon and Pumbaa played by Levi Seyfang and Chelsey Binns respectively with all the required flatulent antics. Anna Restall was the ever vigilant, never resting Zazu with Indianna Laubsch as the loving wife to Mufasa and mother of Simba. Rounding out the principal cast are Anna McIntrye as Shenzi, Jackson Gibson as Banzi and Elijah Proctor as Ed, the three mischievous Hyenas.
The ensemble cast were many and so well drilled in their choreography and stage presence, they were a joy to watch. They did not just fill a space, they were their character.
Congratulations to Now Productions for this offering. We are looking forward to the rest of your productions in 2023. You are everything great about youth theatre in South Australia.