Hear the roar, feel the love with Stagemakers at the J
Stagemakers at the J will be presenting “The Lion King Jr.,” a heartwarming, coming-of-age musical about an African lion named Simba, who discovers the true meaning of love, courage and loyalty at the Jewish Community Center, Allentown.
Simba’s father Mufasa is the king, which gives Simba sovereign claim to the throne.
But Simba has a jealous, power-hungry uncle, Scar, who is determined to be king one day.
After Scar falsely convinces Simba he was responsible for Mufasa’s death, Simba runs away.
With help from his loyal friends and family, Simba eventually learns the truth and prepares for the circle of life.
The musical is based on characters from the Disney film “The Lion King.”
Music and lyrics are by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional music and lyrics by Lebo M., Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Hans Zimmer.
“The cast and crew are amazing, and we all work really well together,” director Sarah Kuklis said. “The cast are very supportive of each other, and have worked hard to develop their characters. I believe they will have the audience on the edge of their seats before the end of the opening number.”
Her husband, Andy, is the music director.
“The process of teaching the music and the chants to the cast has been a fun and challenging one,” Andy Kuklis said. “I am quite proud of how the cast has been able to learn the lyrics, especially since a lot of them are literally in an unfamiliar language.”
Young Simba is played by Hollis Moore of Allentown.
“Simba is going to be king one day,” said Moore, a third grader at the Arts Academy Elementary Charter School, Allentown. “I love that the cast are all kids. “Learning some of the lyrics and choreography was rough, too.”
Victoria Toto of Macungie portrays the adult Simba.
“Adult Simba is brave, caring, and wants to please others,” Toto said. “Simba has trouble finding himself, unsure what to think or believe.
“I like this role because it is different from all the others I have had, so much happens to adult Simba throughout the show I have to make so many different reactions,”
A seventh grader at Lower Macungie Middle School, Toto is performing on stage for her 16th time.
“I have to do a fighting scene, and it can be challenging to make it look real on stage,” Toto said. “I have continued to be part of Stagemakers because I have made so many wonderful friendships.”
Oren Fleisch of South Whitehall plays Scar.
A fourth-grader at Schnecksville Elementary School, he is performing with Stagemakers for his third time.
“Scar is an outrageous lion who is power-hungry and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal,” Fleisch said. “He murders his brother and attempts to kill his nephew making him a most despicable villain.”
“Playing Scar is enjoyable because he loves being sarcastic, which I often tend to be,” Fleish said.
Northwestern Lehigh High School ninth grader Reilly Leisher plays Mufasa.
“Mufasa is king of the Pridelands, and Simba’s father,” Leisher said. “I relate to Mufasa because I try to be a leader, and help guide others in the right direction.
“Mufasa is both a good king and a good parent, taking care of the other animals in his kingdom as well as his family.”
Diya Shah from Macungie, a fifth-grader at Shoemaker Elementary School, Emmaus, plays Zazu.
“Zazu is the fretful yet loyal attendant for Mufasa, and very annoying to young Simba and young Nala,” Shah said. “I like playing Zazu because I get to sing some solos and have a lot of speaking parts.”
Zoe Lachter of Allentown, an eighth grader at the Jewish Day School of the Lehigh Valley, plays Rafiki.
“Rafiki is a wise and spunky mandrill who helps others when they are confused about what to do,” Lachter said. “Rafiki has a very loud and outgoing personality. It was tough to adjust to at first but it has been a lot of fun.”
Elle Bagley of Macungie, a fifth grader at Shoemaker Elementary, plays Timon.
“Stagemakers gives me the opportunity to have fun with my friends and always make new ones,” Bagley said. “Timon is loyal and brave, he cares very much for Simba.
“He is funny, very energetic, and good at distracting hyenas.”
Lilly Reuther of Allentown is a third-grader at the Jewish Day School, Allentown.
She plays Pumbaa, in what is her 14th performance onstage.
“Pumbaa is sensitive and funny,” Reuther said. “He truly loves his pals Timon and Simba.”
“I love that I get to sing ‘Hakuna Matata.’ Learning all my lines and dance moves was challenging.”
Adalina Rissmiller of Allentown plays young Nala.
She is a third-grader at Parkway Manor Elementary, South Whitehall.
“I love acting and singing,” she said. “Learning all the songs and my lines took time, but getting to be one of the main characters makes it all worth it.
“Nala is Simba’s best friend from childhood and they go on many adventures together.
“Like Simba, Nala grows up throughout the show and supports Simba when he needs it most.”
Abby Zellner of Allentown plays adult Nala.
“Adult Nala is a very tough, strong-willed lioness, and wants to fight for what is right,” said Zellner, a seventh grader at St. Thomas More School, Allentown. “It is fun to be part of this group, I love the connections I have made.
“I love my character because she is so passionate, it is fun to characterize that passion on stage.
“Learning how to move and act like a lion has been challenging.”
“Banzai is a not-so-smart hyena who is always hungry,” said Olivia Laible-Warner of Allentown. “But he is funny and fun to play.”
Olivia is in fourth grade at The Swain School, Salisbury Township.
“Blocking during rehearsals and learning my lines are my favorite things we get to do,” Laible-Warner said. “The hardest part is memorizing the choreography.”
Noah Saborsky of Limeport, a second grader at Liberty Bell Elementary School, Coopersburg, plays Ed.
“Ed is an odd hyena who does a lot of silly things,” Saborsky said. “I often get to fall on the floor laughing hysterically.
“Playing a hyena requires me to keep my tongue out when on stage, and trying to prevent it from getting dry can be tricky.
Zoey Shimon, a fourth grader at Parkway Manor Elementary School, South Whitehall, plays Shenzi, a very peculiar hyena.
“Shenzi has a different mindset than her pals Ed and Banzai,” Shimon said. “I like playing her, and appreciate her character’s personality.”
“The Lion King Jr.” will be performed 7 p.m. Nov. 15 and 17; and 2 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley, 702 N. 22nd St., Allentown.
Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 610-435-3571.