The Delton Kellogg cast of “The Lion King” gleefully takes part in one of its last practices before taking the stage March 15. Luke Froncheck
For one night only, the Delton Kellogg High School auditorium will be transformed into the plains of Africa as middle school students bring to life the 1994 Disney musical “The Lion King.”
Two shows will be performed Friday, March 15, at 5 and 7 p.m. The show will run roughly 40 minutes and will bring audiences into the world of “The Lion King.” It will include classic songs such as “Hakuna Matata” and the Academy Award-winning “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” as well as additional songs penned for the Broadway production, such as “Be Prepared” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”
Admission is $5 per person or $20 for a household family. Tickets may be purchased ahead of time at Delton Kellogg Middle School.
The musical, designed for elementary-school aged performers, is based on the Broadway production directed by Julie Taymor. The Delton Kellogg cast contains approximately 40 students.
“The students have gone above and beyond this year,” director Anthony DeRosa said. “There has also been excitement in the community for the new theater program. We partnered with Wharton Center for Performing Arts and Disney to bring this program to life at Delton Kellogg Schools.”
The cast includes students ranging from third to sixth grades, whose faces glow with excitement at the prospect of performing one of their favorite movies on stage for an audience.
“It just sounded really fun,” fifth-grader Airyana Antolovich (Young Simba) said. “I even own all the ‘Lion King Movies.’”
The show allowed for some students who may never have had on-stage experience to come out of their shells and experience something different.
“All my sports were done, and I thought that this would be really fun because my older brother does theater too,” third-grader Emily Stevens (Young Nala) said.
The young actors admit to being nervous, but their faces show nothing but grins and smiles when asked about their upcoming performance.
“I wanted to try something new,” fourth-grader Dallas Belka (Scar) said. “I’m probably most nervous for my song [‘Be Prepared’], but I’m still really excited.”
Some of the students seem to have been looking for opportunities to take the stage, and this rendition of “The Lion King” seems to be their chance.
“There hasn’t been a decent stage production or theater company here in a while, so I figured I’d give it a shot,” sixth-grader Erik Belka (Mufasa) said. “And I mean I love ‘The Lion King’ because it's one of my favorite childhood movies.”
According to DeRosa, all the third through sixth grade students were polled to determine the musical they’d be most interested in performing. “The Lion King” came out on top out of six different options.
“This is the first year of a three-year project to help build sustainable theater programs in public schools,” DeRosa said, referencing the assistance received from both Disney and the Wharton Center. “Both provided free professional development, along with teaching artists to assist teachers in the district. We have been working twice a week since November.”
DeRosa also outlined the roadblocks the young company had when it came to piecing the show together.
“Yes, there were a lot of challenges,” DeRosa said. “We have had a third of our rehearsals cancelled due to snow days. However, students were resilient and came to learn. We accomplished a lot during rehearsal because of this. They learned Swahili and Zulu for a few of the songs. This is also the first year of our program, so there has been a learning curve for the school team.
The cast includes Bethany Butchbaker, Leyna Barnes, Izzie Gruber, Bella White, Jayden Dake, Erik Belka, Lucy Lester, Sophie Lebeck, Dallas Belka, Airyana Antolovich, Emily Stevens, Rachel Stevens, Maggie Martin, Jeffery Maple, Jillian Brandli, Kaylynn Zwar, Izzie Wendland, Sydney Dykstra, Alison Adams, Doug Bassett, Jonathon Bates, Katelyn Chase, Isabella Doubledee, Wednesday Erwine, Evan Fleser, Gabriella Gonzalez, Madison Gruber, Teagan Hamlin, Alex Hasman, Taryn Jenkins, Isaiah Kellogg, AJ Lorenz, Malachi Martin, Lillie Sehy, Grace Sheaffer, Alec Sinkler, Kelsy Watson, Willow White, Aubrey Yarger and Ava Yarger.
In addition to DeRosa, the production crew includes musical director Amanda SanInocencio, choreographer/costumes Jennifer Ferguson, producer/costumes Amy Butchbaker, and stage manager Becky Annen.