Entertainment Local

Lion King ready to roar in Barrie

By Susan Doolan, Special to Postmedia Network

Members of the Junior Triple Threat program at the Moving Art Centre for Performance Arts will perform Disney’s The Lion King Jr., which will start this weekend. From left are Anastasia Stevens (Scar), William Alexander (Simba), Claire Allen (Shenzi), Darius Kent (Mufasa) and Emily Pearson (Zazu). MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

Members of the Junior Triple Threat program at the Moving Art Centre for Performance Arts will perform Disney’s The Lion King Jr., which will start this weekend. From left are Anastasia Stevens (Scar), William Alexander (Simba), Claire Allen (Shenzi), Darius Kent (Mufasa) and Emily Pearson (Zazu). MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

The life of a would-be king is fraught with peril.

It really is a jungle out there, over on Anne Street where Moving Art is staging The Lion King Jr., a musical adaptation of animated Disney film.

The local performing arts company has pulled out all the stops making the costumes, masks and creating jungle creatures for the show which wraps up the year for the Junior Triple Threat students.

The program, which is open to children and youth in Grades 4-8, encompasses music, acting and dance.

Emily Pearson plays Zazu, a bird puppet, one of a number of creatures created especially for the show. Zazu is royal advisor to King Mufasa.

“It’s actually quite fun,” Pearson, a Grade 7 student at Codrington Public School in Barrie, said of operating the puppet. “I have to shake out my hand every once in a while.”

She takes dance and singing lessons at Moving Art and is in her third year in the program. She is also one of about eight students from Codrington who are involved in the shows. Students at the school see Moving Art’s shows each year.

Nevertheless, it still took watching a few before 13-year-old Darius Kent felt ready to make the leap to performing. Even though he was intrigued he was too nervous until he saw the Wizard of Oz in 2015.

“I knew it was what I wanted to do,” he said, adding that portraying a character helped to overcome the nervousness.

For Disney’s The Lion King Jr., Kent is playing a powerful royal, King Mufasa.

Unfortunately, the king’s days are numbered because of a jealous brother, Scar, but before his final scene, Kent gets to sing a solo, which is his favourite part of the show.

“I take my son (young Simba) out to teach him the Circle of Life,” he said of one of the most popular songs in the show. “(Singing) is something I enjoy doing.”

While he took some vocal lessons a year ago, most of Kent’s non-performing time is spent playing basketball for the Barrie Royals.

William Alexander, a Grade 8 student at Codrington, marks his fourth year with the Junior Triple Threat program. He is one of three siblings and the only one to show an interest in the performing arts.

He started taking singing lessons last year at Moving Art. His favourite song in the show is the Hakuna Matata - written by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, it received an Academy Award nomination in 1995 for Best Original Song.

Alexander is planning on moving into the Senior Triple Threat program at Moving Art, but doesn’t think, at this point, he will go into it as a career. He’s not sure what he wants to do but it will likely centre around his interests in athletics and/or science.

He plays the older Simba.

The story charts the young lion life from birth until he can take his rightful place on the throne.

First, however, he has deal with the villainous Scar.

Anastasia Stevens, a 13-year-old Grade 7 student at W.R. Best Memorial Public School, is no stranger to the stage, but she is finding plenty to stretch her playing the role of Scar. She is more accustomed to comedic characters.

“Scar is a lot of fun,” said Stevens, who started at Moving Art six years ago and is up to 13 hours a week in dance training in addition to the Junior Triple Theatre program. “It’s a big challenge for me and a good experience to do a different character.”

She has appeared in other shows in the past, in a Kempenfelt Community Players young company production of Seussical, and five shows with Drayton Entertainment at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene. In fact, she has her eye on the professional theatre company for her long-term future career but in the meantime has been doing lots of auditions including King’s Wharf’s open call for youth to join the chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, part of the summer theatre season.

Performances run Saturday at 7 p.m and Sunday at 3 p.m. April 22-23 and April 29-30 at The Loft, Moving Art, 125 Anne St. S.

Tickets are $15, plus HST, available by calling 705-792-2877