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The circle of life comes to Gilroy

Gilroy Parks and Recreation Department presents its summer performance ‘Disney’s The Lion King Jr.’ Photo by Rebecca Little.
Rafiki, Mumfasa, Simba and other denizens of the African savanna will arrive on the stage at Gilroy High School this weekend for the Gilroy Parks and Recreation Department’s annual summer show.

Disney’s The Lion King Jr., a condensed version designed specifically for cast members between the ages of 6 and 14, has the same rhythmic drumbeat, eye-popping costumes and catchy songs from the Tony Award-winning Broadway show: “Hakuna Matata,” “Circle of Life,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” The musical is based on the 1994 Disney movie.

Hilary Little, who got her own start on the same Gilroy High School stage in a production of Aladdin when she was 7, is directing the show. It tells the story of the lion cub Simba, whose father Mufasa is king of the Pride Lands of Africa. Simba must contend with his uncle, Scar, who believes he is rightful heir to the throne. Comic relief comes from Rafiki, a mandrill sidekick to Simba.

The show’s cast of 44 children and teens from the South Valley includes stars P.J. Crocker as Simba; Jenna Hernandez as Rafiki, Lauren DeRosa as Scar, Gannon Janisch as Mufasa and Emily Pember as Simba’s lioness friend Nala.

The show’s special effects might seem daunting, but after Little directed Beauty and the Beast for Parks and Rec last year, with its huge sets and teapot, wardrobe and candle that had to be made human, Lion King is easy.

“After tackling ‘Beauty’ last year, this one doesn’t seem that bad,” said Little. “With ‘Lion King’ we have a little more freedom and can be a little more abstract. I’ve been pulling inspiration from the original Broadway show and other local companies that have done the show on a smaller scale.”

She’s rented “really cool-looking” masks for the lions, but the rest of the costumes and masks have been scavenged from yard sales and the internet or built by a team of stage moms.

‘Disney’s The Lion King Jr.’ July 14-23, Gilroy High School, Theater, 750 W. 10th St, Gilroy. Tickets $10 at the door or at [email protected].

Susan Rife
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About Susan Rife
Lover of arts & books; ukulele learner; therapeutic knitter; long-distance runner. Former Arts and Books Editor at Herald-Tribune.