The Circle of Life gave rise to a circle of talent and friendship as more than 80 students from Woodford House and Lindisfarne College came together to bring Disney’s The Lion King JR to life. Woodford House secured the rights as the second school in New Zealand to stage this fabulous show over a year ago. This was a shortened version of the Broadway show but with the same well-loved songs, characters and storyline.
Auditions were an intense time as girls faced nervousness and the challenges of singing and dancing in a musical theatre style. There was keen competition for key roles followed by much debate between the Director, Kathy Atkin, Musical Director, John Snowling and Choreographer, William Waitoa, as to who would get them.
Fast forward to August. The songs and harmonies are rehearsed, the dance steps polished and strong friendships are being forged between the two schools. But it’s behind the scenes where there is a frenzy of activity. Woodford House was responsible for the costumes and make-up. Year 13 students Caitlin Maiorana and Hope Phillips designed and constructed the gazelle costumes, which included hand-painting fabrics and felting horns – they were beautiful.
Six staff members sewed evenings and weekends for months to dress herds of hyenas, a pride of lionesses and a bunch of crazy shapes, to name a few. Year 13 student Lydia Hill designed 26 different faces for makeup and taught a team or girls the tricks of executing these with speed when under pressure.
In production week there were some long days with everyone pitching in to finish costumes, paint the set, plot the lighting and sound cues and give the show that final polish.
Everyone was very motivated by the exciting news that the show had sold out before opening night. As always, the presence of a live audience was what the performers needed to dig deep to find the energy and wow factor, which they brought to every performance.
The audience got a whole African experience from the Flaming Maniacs with fire eating at the entrance to Year 7 and 8 performers giving a taste of the Savannah before entering the auditorium.
There were some unique challenges along the way for this young cast. At the Saturday matinee, just prior to intermission, the fire alarm sounded requiring everyone to evacuate while two fire engines arrived. The show went on to the second half with a bit less on stage smoke effect and a cast determined to keep up the momentum.
The evening performance saw the first signs of what was ahead with Rafiki (Montana Porima) feeling ill backstage, but still giving a stunning performance. By mid-morning the next day the full impact of the campylobacter outbreak was known and a high level meeting between the schools led to the decision to postpone the Sunday matinee in the interests of student and public health and safety.
It was such a thrill a week later to bring the final and fifth show to a full house at the Sunday matinee with students back to full health. The cast reconnected with their characters and the magic of the material to present a fabulous finale to the season.
This will be a great memory for everyone. The girls had the experience of a big show with costume, make-up, and professional lights and sound. They learnt stagecraft and many danced for the first time. They experienced resilience and ‘digging deep’, teamwork and the joy that comes from singing in harmony.
Strong friendships were forged from sharing this special time together and confidence from stepping out of the comfort zone and performing to 300 people.
Lion King – you were a hit. Take a bow.
Mrs Josephine Carpenter, Director of Performing Arts