On Friday night, I had the opportunity to see The Lion King, Jr. at the Erie Playhouse. The musical was a Youtheater production and had actors ranging from elementary school age to high school age. They put on a show that outshined some shows I had seen adults put on, and the play’s writers did a great job adapting the movie to the stage. The singing, acting, and costumes were excellent and far better than what I was expecting from a youth production.
The first act of the play primarily featured the younger actors because it was about the early part of Simba’s life. These actors were incredible for their age, especially in terms of their singing. The actors playing Simba and Rafiki especially stood out for their singing abilities. Although the actors were young, I did not see any missteps in the choreography from any of them.
The highlight of the play was the stampede scene, where Scar killed Mufasa. I was not sure how this would translate from a cartoon movie to live actors on a stage, but the execution was perfect. They used the orchestra pit as the ravine, and the chorus held and moved giant cardboard cutouts of wildebeest heads to gives the illusion that they were running. Other than that, the scene played out exactly like the movie because the actors used the side of the orchestra pit as the cliff that Musfasa fell down.
The second act of the play was just as good as the first, but it primarily featured older actors that were in middle or high school to show the aging that the characters underwent. However, the older actors did not outshine the younger actors in this act. For example, the girl playing Timon did an excellent job with her part because she acted just like the Timon from the movie, but it did not seem that she was forcing herself to act like the movie version.
In addition to the acting and singing, the set and costume design were excellent. The scenery contained a rotating platform that had different environments and stairs for to climb up during the Pride Rock scenes. There were also backdrops with the different environments that were hung in the background. All of these were painted with meticulous detail. The costumes were also designed with detail in mind, especially the lions’ costumes. The lions had a headdress with a lion head on it, and the painting on them seemed very professional. The costumes for the chorus represented a wide variety of animals, and there was much attention to detail paid to these costumes.
The Lion King, Jr. was an excellent production, and I would see it again if I have the chance. Despite the young age of the actors, the show was very professional and well done. The actors’ singing and dancing abilities were apparent, and there were no instances where they messed up their lines or choreography or where they missed a note. The costume and set design was also impressive and high quality. Because of these factors, the overall quality of the show was excellent.