HOW LIONS TRAIN THEIR CUBS IN “THE LION KING, JR.”
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Contributed by Cheryl Parker
A star-studded cast of twenty-six children has a huge gift for the entertainment-starved community of Munds Park this summer. They’re performing Disney’s “The Lion King, Jr.” on July 2nd,3rd and 4th outdoors at Munds Park Community Church and it’s shaping up to be a spectacular show.
Lynn Rouyer, highly respected for her talent directing children’s theatre, is at it again. Her newly launched Arizona Children’s Theatre, which is administered by Coconino Community Theatre, opened its first summer camp in June. When Rouyer recruited some exceptionally gifted children to portray the colorful and lively animal characters in the play, she discovered even more talent in her menagerie. Many of the actors also serve as staff members to produce the musical.
Sixteen-year-old Makenna Jones plays the role of Nala, a strong, ambitious lioness who sacrifices almost everything to lead and protect her family. Ironically, her character is much like Makenna’s other role as Assistant Director of the show. Makenna loves working with the children and has sacrificed countless hours creating costumes and masks, gathering props, and helping the Director pull together all aspects of the show. Makenna credits her five years’ experience in both children’s and adult theatre for helping her overcome her shyness and build strong friendships. Makenna’s passion for theatre undoubtedly inspires her fellow cast members.
Elliot Hull, another veteran child actor, is arguably typecast in his role of Mufasa, King of the African Pride Lands. His reserved, regal character is a born leader, as is Elliot in real life. It comes as no surprise then, that Director Rouyer appointed Elliott as her Junior Staff administrator. He coaches his fellow actors in character development, helps them learn their lines, and leads theatre games.
Elliot believes one of the most important skills kids learn in the summer camp is speaking in front of an audience. One survey found that public speaking is the number one fear of Americans. That survey claims that most people would rather lie in a casket than deliver the eulogy at a funeral. But the cast of “The Lion King, Jr.” has a tougher challenge than that. Before they ever face an audience, they must memorize lots of lines (some in an African dialect) and sing and dance and perform as though it were….mere child’s play.
As a long-time observer of children’s theatre, it’s fascinating to watch the kids develop their poise and self confidence year after year. Many of them receive scholarships to prestigious colleges and top job offers thereafter. Elliot, for example, has the lofty goal of attending the US Naval Academy when he graduates high school next year. Makenna has her heart set on performing on Broadway some day. I would put my money on both of those dreams coming true.
There is no charge to attend any of the performances, but contributions will be greatly appreciated to help cover expenses of the production. Temperatures will be taken upon entrance to the show. Masks are required, as well as social distancing. There will be a raffle drawing for the giant lighted Lion King, donated by Bill and Dee Spain, as well as two smaller lion cubs. Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy the al fresco theatre Thursday, July 2nd and Friday, July 3rd at 6:30pm and Saturday morning, July 4th at 11am. Hot dogs, ice cream, and root beer floats will be sold on the 4th from 10am to 1pm. Come applaud our young stars! For more information, go to www.cctfriends.org or call 602-321-9378.