This weekend, 70 young people from Montgomery and surrounding counties will stampede onto the stage of the Vanity Theater as the Sugar Creek Players present their roaring rendition of Disney’s The Lion King Jr. This perennial favorite is directed by Jennie Swick, choreographed by Lisa Warren, produced by Jennifer Tyo, and sponsored by Arni’s.
This rollicking youth musical will have the audience tapping their feet to timeless Disney classics as they follow young lion cub Simba (Corbin DeVol), who “Can’t Wait to Be King” just like his father, Mufasa (Cameron Tyo). After being manipulated by his scheming uncle Scar (Thomas Bowling), outcast Simba is befriended by the hilarious warthog Pumba (Rylan Dowell) and meerkat Timon (Brendan Warren), who teach him the joys of “Hakuna Matata.” Once his childhood friend Nala (Alivia Williams) discovers that the now-grown Simba (Haze Kashon) is still alive, can she convince him to return to the Pridelands to take his rightful place in the “Circle of Life,” saving the kingdom from Scar and his hyena henchmen?
Though this production features the same story and songs that made the animated Disney film so popular, Swick said her production is more similar to the Broadway show. She has incorporated elements of African language and music to give the story an authentic feel.
“The show is so fun,” Swick said. “I can’t wait for people to see what these kids have learned and what they are able to do.”
Echoing the director’s words, the cast members themselves are proud of what they have achieved together. The camaraderie among the cast is apparent.
“It’s so fun being able to work with friends on something we all love,” said Stella Snook, who plays the wise Rafiki.
Tyo adds that playing Mufasa has given him the chance to play a character he has always admired.
The production tops off its winning combination of high-energy fun, amazing talent and beloved characters with strong messages.
“The show’s message is to never give up on yourself,” said Williams, who plays Nala.
Producer Jennifer Tyo believes the importance of family also shines through the production.
“I can’t watch it without crying,” she said.
This large cast of talented youth is led by Snook (Rafiki), Tyo (Mufasa), Kashon (Simba), Williams (Nala), Bowling (Scar), Henry Hartnett (Zazu), Dowell (Pumba), Brendan Warren (Timon), DeVol (Young Simba), Gianna Kochert Cosby (Young Nala), Jesse Acton (Banzai), Alicia France (Shenzi), Caden Tyo and Lily Mycroft (Ed twins), Jessica Bradley (Sarabi), Seraiah Maish (Sarafinia), and lioness soloists Annee Clark and Lorelei Schmitzer-Torbert. The Lioness Chorus also includes Elliot Baker, Jaycee Farris, Hilary Haltom, Lauren Mermoud, Taylor Mermoud, Madelyn Schnelle and Makayla Whitecotton.
Members of the Hyena Chorus are Lilly Bryant, Anders Carlson, Damaso Lagunes, Marisa Mermoud, Fernanda Montero, Tovi Powell, Evelyn Rapp, Kaytlin Roark, Sophia Shea, Aiden Stephenson, Molly Williams and Katelyn Woolwine. The Pride Rock Chorus includes Evan Baldwin, Lily Baldwin, Orion Durbin, Avery Hannum, Lucy Hess, Lashah Maish, Miciah Maish, Avery Stokes, Hope Taylor, Nivek Witt, Lennon Woods and Cole Yeager.
Members of Cub Chorus A, performing the first weekend, are Scarlett Bryant, Adalynn Burris, Edwin Burris, Phaedra Douglas, Zachary Hicks, Laura Hodge, Eli Nunan, Keegan Perry, Emma Plemons, Kameron Stokes and Oliver Woods. Members of Cub Chorus B, performing the second weekend, are Jaline Church, Allesyn DeAnda, Braden Hoeferle, Kennett Kuhn, Lexi Mitchell, Elizabeth Nunan, Easton Schnelle, Iistin Swick, Jameson Whitecotton and Amelia Woods.
Lion King Jr. runs 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Feb. 14-15 and 21-22 and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays Feb. 16 and Feb. 23. To purchase tickets online, visit sugarcreekplayers.org. To purchase tickets at the box office, call 765-362-7077 or purchase in person at 122 S. Washington St. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and one hour before each show.