Fairfield Middle School Drama Club is presenting Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.” at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the FMS Cafetorium.
Just because this is a junior version staged by fifth- through eighth-graders on a middle school cafetorium stage, don’t go in expecting a second-rate show full of disappointments; that’s definitely not what you will experience at FMS.
Like Disney’s 1994 hit animated movie, “The Lion King,” the junior version tells the story of the curious cub Simba as he struggles to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and his destiny as king of the Pridelands. Along the way, he meets a colorful cast of characters from his best friend lioness Nala and his comical sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa to his evil uncle Scar and the wicked hyena clan.
In addition to the same storyline and characters, the junior version also features classic songs from the film, including “Hakuna Matata,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” “Circle of Life” and more.
The cast includes: Marcus Trent as the older Simba and Xavier Kessel as the younger Simba, and the switch between the two actors is seamless. Alma White is the older Nala and Addie Benedict is the younger Nala.
Ryan Higgins is Mufasa, Simba’s strong, wise father who leads the Pridelands. Lizzie Hootman is Sarabi, Mufasa’s mate and Simba’s mother. Dajanae Early is Sarafina, Nala’s mother.
Jacob Carlson plays the bad guy Scar, Mufasa’s brother and Simba’s uncle. Scar’s head hyena lackeys are Senzi, Banzai and Ed played by Arwydd Hays, TJ Miller and Shamyla Toms respectively. The rest of the hyena army is made up of Conner Hawkins, Nicole Hunger, Adrian Scotton and Daisy Trent.
Erin Epperson and Logan Johnson play the outcast meerkat Timon and kindhearted warthog Pumbaa. These two are the funniest characters in the show!
Ana Carminhato is Rafiki, the wise mandrill who acts as healer and guide. Olivia Sandbothe is Zazu, a hornbill bird that serves as an assistant to Mufasa, Scar and later Simba during each of their respective reigns over the Pridelands.
The cast also includes the lionesses: Elizabeth Martin, Andrea Shenault, Ophelia Greenfield, Felicia Strong, Delmira Jara and Allison Hunger; cheetahs: Samu Shrestha and Jorja Haggard; giraffes: Carley Seeley and Karen Ehret; elephants: Giteeka Adhikari and Craig Miller; monkeys: Paige Bisgard and Grace Lu; zebras: Alison Megrath, Meara Malloy and Cody Gazaway; flamingos: Addie Kitch and Maggie Peterson; birds: Lexi Megrath and Kyra Mellott; and antelopes: Ashlee Jones and Airianna Taylor. You can tell who is who because of the T-shirt color they wear. For example, the lions all wear yellow T-shirts, the hyenas all wear gray T-shirts and big brown ears; the zebras are in black with zebra-stripe sashes tied around their waists. And they all have their faces painted to look like the animals they are representing. When the whole cast is on stage, it is very colorful and fun.
The crew includes Maya Lane, Sillan Post, Ben Boatright, Viola Welsh, Alex McDow, Cooper Polonsky, Serene Lu, Lana Davis, Seth Johnson and Olivia Adkins.
Drew Twohill is the assistant director. He will be the one on stage welcoming you to the show and reminding you to turn off your cellphones and keep the aisles clear during the performance, as the wild Pridelands animals will be trekking there.
FMS teacher and drama club leader Tena Edlin continues in the role as director.
Edlin said the cast has worked diligently to make up for missed rehearsals caused by this year’s cold, snowy and icy weather.
“The Lion King Jr.” will be presented at 7 p.m. both Thursday and Friday. Tickets, available at the door, are $2; school activity passes will be accepted.