Academy Players’ Exuberant Lion King

 

Two thoughts occurred to me as I watched the Academy Players’ latest production of The Lion King: 1) “Circle of Life” is a really fantastic song, and 2) this show works exceptionally well with a young cast of performers.

Under the capable direction of Brianna Geyer and Justina Mabrey, the large ensemble of pre-teens delivered an exuberant, but abbreviated version of the classic Disney animated feature. Erin Mclaughlin is likable and appealing as young Simba, who is cast out of the pride following the death of his father, King Mufasa (Marc Cesana, Jr,). Simba has to learn to accept his destiny and face the evil of his malevolent uncle, Scar (Maya Madison and Mya Lemery).

Lyricists Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs are wonderful, especially “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Be Prepared,” “Hakuna Matata,” and of course, “Circle of Life,” which opens and closes the show.

Makena Petsch and Owen Richard were delightful as the meerkat Timon and the warthog Pumbaa, who befriend Simba and provide much-needed moral support. Darianna Perez displayed a lot of charisma and superb vocals as Rafiki.

The choreography of the various songs was well executed and the colorful costumes effectively captured the mood of the African Savannah. This was a fast-paced show, which will entertain audiences of all ages.

The Lion King, Jr. runs through September 30. Academy Players of RI, 180 Button Hole Dr, PVD. For tickets, call 401-830-0880. academyplayersri.org

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