Just Can’t Wait To Be King

Four Corners Upper School Presents Its Version Of “The Lion King Jr.”

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Senior Gracey Davis plays Rafiki in “The Lion King Jr.”

Kate Stout, Writer

For the first time, students at FCUS performed The Lion King Jr., directed by theater teacher Mrs. Kirstin Faughn. Despite the obstacles this school year presented, the middle school and high school students have worked together tirelessly to put forth the best show possible. 

The Lion King, which is originally a retelling of Macbeth, gave theater students a chance to perform some of the most iconic Disney songs of all time on a smaller scale. This includes songs such as ‘Hakuna Matata’, ‘Can you feel the love tonight?’, ‘I just can’t wait to be King’, and ‘The Circle of Life’.  But there was more to Faughn’s selection than this, with “The Lion King Jr. ” being her first show at the upper school and during a pandemic,  Faughn deliberately chose a show which would be recognizable for students and give her flexibility while casting.  

I chose the Lion King because it’s a well-known show with a large cast. It’s easy to cast gender-blind for the show, and since this is my first year at the upper school I didn’t know what my theater program would look like in advance,” Faughn explained. It gave me a lot of room for variety within my casting choices. This was good for students because they had the chance to audition for any role they wanted, or to be in the ensemble.” 

However, this show still came with its own set of challenges. Performing in the gymnasium, complete with a new stage and Pride Rock, the cast and crew found themselves facing technical difficulties on what was meant to be their opening night.  

On the original opening night of the show, we lost power in the gym,” Faughn said. We delayed the show for an hour in hopes that we could get the power back on, but in the end, we had to postpone the show to that Friday. 

While the show may have gone wrong the first night, the cast and crew made up for it, by putting on a free performance for anyone that wished to attend.  The rescheduled performance occurred on the following Friday and went off without any major issues. 

“I am very, very happy with how it turned out,” Freshman Ashley O’Donnell said. “I mean, considering the events of Wednesday we pulled it together really well.” 

Earlier in the week prior to the show, there was also a question mark over whether or not the repurposed gymnasium would be ready for the performance. Senior Breanna Gallo described the concerns of the theater students a few days before.   

“It was just remarkable to see how it’s all come together in such like stressful timing because we didn’t know if we were going to have a Pride Rock,” Gallo said. “We didn’t know if we were even going to get the wood in time for the stage, and somehow it all just magically happened.” 

Senior Breanna Gallo performing as older Nala in “The Lion King Jr.”

The show was primarily for middle school students with a few elementary students integrated. However, several high schoolers found themselves wanting to be involved in Faughn’s show as well.  

“Well, honestly going into the class, I didn’t think I was going to like it because it was a middle school class,” Gallo said. “But when the show got casted, and we all started singing, and we all started working together, I realized that I misjudged the whole thing without giving it a chance. It’s very crazy because I know that with all those kids, we have a very bright future for our theater program.”  

Gallo was cast as Nala, but since there are six separate performances of The Lion King, the cast was altered slightly each time. Gallo explains that she found herself heavily relating to her character.  

“I think she also proves to be independent and just like a strong leader, which I feel like I identify with, because I’m an only child, so I’ve always had to grow up and be independent. And I’ve always just strived to, you know, climb to the top to be the best that I can be in whatever I’m doing.”  

One middle school student involved in the show was eighth-grade student Miles Williams, who played the role of Mufasa, Simba’s father.  He describes the scale of the show and how that set it apart from other shows.  

We did have a lot more moving pieces and I think the costumes definitely took way more time and effort to make,” Williams said.  “We definitely had to do way more with the makeup and face paint and all that for the characters.”  

He also credits Faughn as a director for giving students more opportunities to play certain characters by creating three different casts, one for each week of the show 

I think it benefited students because it gave more students a chance to play a character and it allowed,” Williams explained.  “It was probably more stressful because you had to like, fit like three different people for a character but it gave more opportunities 

Middle school and high school students perform together in “The Lion King Jr.” (Kate Stout)

As mentioned, for Faughn this show was not only her first show during a pandemic but also her first show at the upper campus. Prior to this year, Faughn had put on several shows at FCUS’s elementary school.  She found putting on this show at the upper campus to be quite different.   

At the lower campus my theater program was completely extra-curricular, so there were no national standards or grade involved,” Faughn shared. This production was tied to a musical theater class. It was also a much bigger production than we had at the elementary school. The cast was at least twice as large as any elementary production we had put on. 

O’Donnell, who had previously helped with some of the shows at the lower campus explained that one of the biggest differences this year was the location of the performances.  

“At the lower campus, she was working with a small auditorium, well, more so a stage which is in the cafeteria,” O’Donnell said. “And because we don’t have that at the upper campus, we built our own way of creating the show and putting it on.” 

Another factor that made this show harder than usual was COVID-19.  Many students are attending school in person now, but social distancing and wearing masks is still a must for students to remain safe and healthy.  

The biggest struggle that we faced was the inability to rehearse together. Several of our cast members have been attending school online this year, and full-cast rehearsals were extremely limited. I also had to keep social distancing of both the cast and the audience in mind while designing the show.”  

While she never appears on stage, O’Donnell was still an integral part of The Lion King. O’Donnell was a member of the tech crew, and while she and her partner Junior Ayonna Black worked mainly on lighting, she described some of the responsibilities of the other crew members.    

“The theater technical class includes the tech crew, which is obviously lights, music, sound mics, all that,” O’Donnell said. “Then we also have our makeup crew and our costume crew and our backstage crew. So, it’s really a big, elaborate set of people that all comes together.” 

Gallo explained how she was impressed by the skill of the tech classes and shared that those classes were also where many of the costumes and props came from.  

“A lot of the props have come from the theater tech class.  Faughn, like, guides them through it. She’s taught them things like makeup. They were painting, you know, wildebeest heads. They make birds and different animals,” Gallo explained.  “And after school, we were actually making some of the stuff. I helped, you know, make a giraffe head. But it’s just really cool to see them construct everything out of cardboard, or like hula hoops, or string. 

The show may have faced several rough spots along the way, but Gallo does not think anything in the show was worth changing.  The show seemed to make her remember what makes theater so special in the first place.  

“There’s theater magic, and I’ve seen it happen in so many different ways and for this show just like seeing everybody come together is the theater magic,” Gallo said. “And I think it’s perfect just the way it is.”