The Lion King Jr., a “Little People Production”

by McKenzie Murray for OLY ARTS

Pacific Northwest Theater Company’s summer youth program, “Little People Productions,” will showcase two musical performances for the community this month. Actors aged 5 to 9 have been hard at work rehearsing Disney’s The Aristocats KIDS over the span of three weeks. A separate group of older actors, ages 9 to 15, will have rehearsed Disney’s The Lion King Jr. for four weeks by the time it opens July 21.

Steven Wells is the managing artistic director of Pacific Northwest Theater, and the director of The Lion King Jr. According to Wells, one of the main goals of the troupe’s summer program is to “create an available opportunity for young people who normally can’t afford theater to get an educational-theater experience.” Actors in the program star in musicals adapted specifically for their age range. Vocal ranges and performance duration have been tailored to provide a fun, educational experience for all. Younger participants, like those acting in The Aristocats KIDS, learn valuable performance techniques like singing, memorizing lines and having fun on stage. Actors in The Lion King Jr. learn more advanced skills like character voices, stylized movements and choreography.

Program participants also pick up life skills that apply to contexts outside the summer stage. Embodying characters, memorizing blocking and lines, singing in front of an audience and taking risks instill confidence in young performers. The Lion King Jr. script includes Zulu chants alongside pronunciation guides, and that promotes cultural awareness.

Audiences who come to The Lion King Jr., says Wells, can expect to see “kids working really hard and having a blast while embodying savanna characters.” The Lion King is a classic, family-favorite story for good reason, says Wells: “It’s a unique, Disney show that lets the audience experience a wide group of emotions, and they all blend into a beautiful story. I’m still moved by this story as an adult, and I hope audiences can be moved as well.”

What: The Lion King Jr.

Where: First Baptist Church,
904 Washington St. SE, Olympia

When: 7 p.m. Friday, July 21;
2 p.m. Saturday, July 22

How much: free – $5

Learn more: 360-229-3145 | Pacific Northwest Theater Company

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