It’s impossible not to be moved by the stirring Zulu chants at the beginning of “Circle of Life.”
North Rowan High School students definitely hope to move audiences during “The Lion King Jr.,” the spring musical that’s set for May 2-4, with shows at 7:30 p.m. nightly. Tickets are $5 for lions (adults) and $3 for cubs (children ages 12 and under).
Preparations for the show began in September with costumes, says art teacher Leigh Ann Alexander.
“There aren’t a lot of set pieces,” she says, “so the costumes are basically the set.”
About 50 students are involved in the play, Alexander says. Students have been working with Michael Brooks, chorus teacher and musical director, on learning the seven different African languages included in the music.
And the students have learned about the beauty of Africa, Alexander says, through costumes, beads and color. Students have made some costumes using the batik method, but the school is renting the costumes for the seven main characters from Eastern Costume Co.
The menagerie of animals includes: 3 zebras, 2 giraffes, 2 elephants, 1 rhinoceros, 9 hyenas, 9 lionesses, as well as 20 grasslands and 20 jungle costumes. Each student wears about three different outfits during the course of the 70-minute show (which includes intermission).
Alexander encourages theater-goers to buy their tickets ahead and arrive early.
“If you miss the first scene,” she notes, “you miss all the animals.”
Students will return from spring break to have just a few days to prepare for the show, Alexander says. “We will be ready.”
Senior Q. Cole plays the older Simba.
“It’s been really good,” he says. “Everyone’s been working together. Everyone helps with everything.”
Cole played the Tin Man in the 2018 production of “The Wiz.” He hopes to major in visual arts or musical theater in the fall.
“It’s going to be visually pleasing,” he notes. “It’s just really fun to look at, and good vocals, too.”
He adds, “It’s not just about acting. You can help in other areas.”
Senior R. Day is head costume designer.
“It’s been a lot of fun — stressful at times,” she says. “I’ve definitely learned a lot. I think it’s gonna look really great. The costumes tell a story and set the scene.”
Day is hoping to get an internship as a costume designer, she says. “This year has taught me that this is something I really want to do.”
Alexander had David Winthrow, a student of hers 20 years ago, to visit the class from New York City.
“That was really special to have him come,” she says.
“Last semester,” Day says, “when I was helping it was because I had to. But then when he came, I realized, this is actually a lot of fun.”
“It’s really exciting,” says senior Caroline Monroe, who plays Rafiki. “This is my second year in theater. I’ve done a lot at church. Working with a group that comes together for a reason is fun. It’s exciting to see where we’re gonna actually end up.”