A talented young cast were finally let out of the cage at Levin Performing Arts Society at the weekend for the Lion King Jnr show, ending months of delays due to Covid-19.

Lion King Jnr, a stage adaptation of the movie The Lion King, roared into life for opening night in front of a packed house.

Covid-19 had threatened to draw the curtain on months of hard work for cast and crew involved in the production, as New Zealand went into lockdown just as they were poised to take to the stage.

A scene from Lion King Junr at Levin Performing Arts Society.
A scene from Lion King Junr at Levin Performing Arts Society.

Auditions began in December last year and the cast began rehearsing in January, until lockdown stopped the show in its tracks in late March.

Advertisement

As lockdown restrictions began to ease, a decision was made that the show must go on, but it wasn't until late April that cast members took their first tentative step back to rehearsals, in groups of 10 only.

Although there were some last-minute changes and defections from the original cast before lockdown, the show was a roaring success.

There wasn't a beat missed throughout the show by the entirely young cast, a reflection of the hard work and late-night rehearsals.

Tiana Fryer (Nala) and Kai Smith (Simba) during the performance of Lion King Jnr at Levin Performing Arts.
Tiana Fryer (Nala) and Kai Smith (Simba) during the performance of Lion King Jnr at Levin Performing Arts.

There were some excellent performances from casting that brought the characters to well-known story to life, with Rafiki (Kaydence Mose Tuialii) to Zazu (Aaliyah Wicks) instantly recognisable and relatable.

The parts of Timon and Pumbaa were always going to need energy and Mischa O'Brien and Kalanee Wicks didn't disappoint, providing some theatrical comic relief in their respective roles.

It was easy to follow the characters as they grew through the story, too, with young Simba (Alrich Hoffman) taken over by Old Simba (Kai Smith) and Young Nala (Alayna Gilbert-Amor) subbed by Old Nala (Tiana Fryer).

Rafiki (Kaydence Mose-Tuialii) and Simba (Kai Smith).
Rafiki (Kaydence Mose-Tuialii) and Simba (Kai Smith).

Mufasa (Kyrian Aitchison) and Scar (Tyson Jones) were brilliant in the famous scene atop the valley cliffs high above a herd of stampeding wildebeest.

The main characters were supported well by a pack of lionesses, and scary bunch of hyenas, and a pride land that also featured zebras, an elephant, gazelles and exotic birds.

Advertisement

Sarabi (Charli O'Brien) and Sarafina (Rikayah Wiparata-Masters) did well in their roles as mothers of the future leaders.

Simba (Alrich Hoffman), Nala (Alayna Gilbert-Amor) and Zazu (Aaliyah Wicks) are surrounded by hyenas during Lion King Jnr at Levin Performing Arts.
Simba (Alrich Hoffman), Nala (Alayna Gilbert-Amor) and Zazu (Aaliyah Wicks) are surrounded by hyenas during Lion King Jnr at Levin Performing Arts.

A majestic set was a standout feature of the show and kudos had to go to those behind the scenes who painted and constructed it themselves.

Arts society president Tacita Bohen said special mention had to go to the children that could not return to the show post-Covid due to other commitments, and who had put in hard work without being able to be involved in the finale.

Production manager Lorraine Lepper said the future of society was in good hands with Bernard O'Brien, Jenna Wicks and Asaria Saili all making their debut as directors of the show.

"They did a fabulous job," she said.

A young Simba (Alrich Hoffman) during Lion King Jnr at Levin Performing Arts Society.
A young Simba (Alrich Hoffman) during Lion King Jnr at Levin Performing Arts Society.

Lepper said special mention had to go to Libby Bruhn for her countless hours of art work on the set, helping to create an otherworldly experience.

Advertisement

The show, which was now sold out, continues this weekend.

The society would then begin planning and casting for their next junior show Moana, planned for next year, while it also had an adult production of Chicago planned for later this year.

Zazu (Aailiyah Wicks) and an elephant (Ethan Bennick and Bronson Morgan).
Zazu (Aailiyah Wicks) and an elephant (Ethan Bennick and Bronson Morgan).
Subscribe to Premium