A “busman’s holiday” is a vacation in which the driver gets to sit with the passengers and enjoy the scenery without the stresses of watching the road. It felt just like that last night where instead of working in the roles of music director or school principal, I was able to enjoy the work of a school production of The Lion King JR at Kingsway College School. Normally, one wouldn’t expect to see a review of such a production in this publication, but in its own way it felt like just the kind of performance that should be included. It was an exemplary performance by a school, the kind of performance that creates indelible memories into the hearts of children, the kind that will no doubt create the adult audiences of tomorrow’s live music, dance, opera and theatre.
Last night was the second of three consecutive sold-out performances of The Lion King JR, a work that required months of preparation on the part of thirty staff, over twenty parents and close to two hundred students directly involved. The commitment of this community was evident from the attention to detail in the sets, costumes and technical production standards. Nevertheless, it was the confident and accomplished singing, dancing and acting of the students that was most gripping.
Scar, Zazu, Simba, Pumbaa and Timon; Photo credit: Vanessa Milburn
Timon, Pumbaa and Simba; Photo credit: Vanessa Milburn
The Lion King JR is the well known epic tale of the young lion Simba who grows through his misadventures into a worthy king of the jungle. Although taught from an early age by his father Mufasa, that he should respect the ‘circle of life’ and its delicate balance of the myriad of jungle animals, he is convinced by Scar, the evil brother to the king, that he is responsible for his father’s death and that he should run away. Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa and takes on their ‘no worries’ lifestyle. Only with the help of the wise baboon, Rafiki, does he learn that his father’s spirit is alive in him and that he must accept the responsibility of reclaiming his rightful place in the world.
With the outstanding direction of several teachers in the school, the age appropriate themes of self-respect, tolerance, courage and love shone through the performance. The music is memorable with songs like The Lion Sleeps Tonight and The Circle of Life.
Highlights of the performance included a primary choir of about a hundred children singing three songs that made up the overture. There were the dancing lionesses, hyenas, buzzards, elephants, zebras, giraffes, birds, monkeys, a cheetah and bats. Strong performances by each of the leads including Rafiki, Mufasa, Sarabi, the two Simbas, the two Nalas, Scar, Sarafina, Zazu, Shenzi, Banzai, Ed, Timon, and Pumbaa were especially notable.
Kingsway College School is an Independent School in the west end of Toronto with about 400 students from pre-kindergarten through Grade 8. It has been in operation since 1989 serving families who want and expect outstanding results in all aspects of the curriculum. The arts have long been a major driver of the positive culture that one can see immediately upon entering the school. Posters for the school’s annual show were everywhere. Even the Head of School's office was adorned with a wild array of student art.
The leadership that inspires parents, teachers, and students to get on the same page and work tirelessly towards such a worthy outcome as was witnessed last night can and should be present in every school. There couldn’t be a better way to teach the values of community and the arts. For this ‘busman’, the performance was indeed a vacation.
Dancers with Simba; Photo credit: Vanessa Milburn
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The Lion King JR at Kingsway College School: a triumph of teamwork and dedication!
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 3 2017
Cast of The Lion King JR; Photo credit: Vanessa Milburn