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Lion King a roaring success

By Staff | Feb 19, 2020

ADE HEASLEY/The Luminary   The cast of "The Lion King Experience" posed for a group photo after their upbeat and entertaining performance in Montgomery's high school auditorium on Feb. 8. Students kept ?the audience engaged with a mixture of humor, sentimental moments, song, and dance and received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

The Montgomery Area School District presented “The Lion King Experience” on Saturday, Feb. 8. The heartwarming, fun-filled crowd-pleaser was a wonderful blend of musical, dramatic, and artistic talent from students from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The onstage performers were middle school students in Virtuoso Jr. and some of them were elementary students. Virtuoso, the high school theatre ensemble, had offstage roles working with the younger students.

The performers did a fantastic job with the musical that had a dynamic range of story elements. The show also featured many of the students singing in an African dialect and they did an outstanding job. The elementary school chorus contributed their vocal talent to the well-loved score.

The show came to life on a brightly-decorated stage that was filled with colorful artwork by the elementary school students. Each grade in the elementary school provided African-themed art projects that adorned the stage. The kindergarten students each contributed a green handprint for the grass, made butterflies, and mixed colors for the headbands. fFrst graders also contributed grass handprints and made 3-D flowers. The second graders made flowers and sun designs. Third graders contributed woven birds and African masks. The fourth graders worked together to create some larger props including paper mache` bones, jungle leaves, vines, and trees. Fifth graders created cardboard mixed-media masks and paper mache` birds. The sixth graders provided soft-cut prints, assembled headbands, cut out handprints, cut grass pieces, and made paper mache` bones.

Virtuoso Jr. was directed by Josh Glover, a Virtuoso alumnus who graduated in 2016 and then received the prestigious honor of being accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. He said after the show, “It was a really special experience to be back here and to see the future of Virtuoso.”

Senior Dylan Ring, a student director said, “The Lion King experience was something for this entire district to come together for the arts. I am so glad as a senior that I got to apply myself in this direction helping kids learn how to be onstage, and taking what I’ve learned and passing it on to them is something special to me. I also am so proud of them, they put in all this work and they are the reason they did amazing tonight. It was all them and they are so great and they’re as young as fifth and sixth graders and to know that I’m leaving behind a legacy, we’re all leaving behind something that they’re going to be able to carry on, I’m so proud of them. I have no worries graduating knowing that this program is still going to be in great shape, probably even better than our shape right now when we leave. They are so amazing, and I loved working with them.”

JADE HEASLEY/The Luminary   "The Circle of Life" was just one of many songs performed in "The Lion King Experience" but life came full-circle off stage when Virtuoso alumnus Josh Glover (center) returned to serve as the director of Virtuoso Jr. After graduating from Montgomery he studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and is pictured with his mentors, the co-directors of Virtuoso Carina McNear (left) and Jessica Carpenter.?

Junior McKenzie Heasley was the casting director and in charge of programming. She said she got to watch every audition and immediately knew what kids were going to be cast in certain roles. She commented, “They were really good. I was so proud of them and understand how Mrs. McNear and Mrs. Carpenter feel now because it’s like, ‘those are my kids out there.'”

Jessica Carpenter, co-director of Virtuoso said, “What’s been amazing about this process is watching everybody come together. The high school students mentoring the younger kids and the younger kids learning from the older kids and helping and being part of it in a very different way than we normally do.” She further said that the students who contributed the artwork anticipated seeing the show. “We were excited to have watched it come together as a team.”

Carina McNear, co-director of Virtuoso commented, “I knew we had an amazing team in place because there was absolutely no way I could have done this without everybody working together. When you have the right adults that are coming together for the sake of kids there’s no reason for it to not be successful. And the other thing definitely was that this couldn’t have been done with just any high school class. This was the perfect combination of high school kids in that musical theatre class to make this happen because they were willing to put in everything they needed to beyond degree.”

Amazingly, the show was produced in just six weeks. McNear said that her high school Virtuoso students have not only been working on “The Lion King Experience,” they have also been in rehearsals for their spring musical “West Side Story.”

The student cast and crew members were: Camden Dalrymple, Lexi Boyer, Logan Joy, Amelia Shrimp, Kaidence Ramer, Colton Hessler, Elizabeth Bryson, Aden Keister, Gavin Rine, Alexis DeSantis, Mary Green, Ava Hartman, Laila Hessler, Madison Burleigh, Leah Foresman, Matthew Moser, Emily Geiger, Miranda Stone, Katie Webber, Trinity Sellers, Ryleigh Woods, Amya Grimm, Jocelyn Moser, Olivia Carey, Dylan Ring, Addi Heasley, McKenzie Heasley, Laura Ulrich, Breanna Gardner, Catalin Torok, Jewels Tawney, Bradyn Foresman, Nathan Yeagle, Jaelyn Woods, Mira Fink, Avery Jessel, Natalie St. James, Jessica Bohner, Ava Peluso, Clara Ulrich, Morgen Tupper, and the Elementary School Chorus.

The faculty members and the creative team were: Mr. Josh Glover, Mrs. Carina McNear, Mrs. Jessica Carpenter, Mr. Brian Rehn, Mrs. Sue Palazzo, and Mrs. Bess Lowry.