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Vocal Plus Presents

Posted Date: 04/02/2018

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Memorial Auditorium $5 PER


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RMS students ‘ready’ for musical production this weekend


There is a palatable exuberance on stage during rehearsals for the upcoming production of The Lion King Jr. that Royster Middle School students will perform on Friday and Saturday. It could be because the students are familiar with the show, the catchy tunes, or that they enjoy dressing up and acting like hyenas, monkeys, or lions.

“We’re all very ready for it,” said Trystin Calhoun, who plays the role of Shenzi, the head of a trio of hyenas. “We’re all just really good at being the characters that were chosen for us.”

She wasn’t the only one to comment on the casting.

Lena Aguilar said she’d auditioned for a different role, but director and vocal music instructor Lance Burnett said he saw her as Rafiki, and she agrees that her personality fits the role of the “wise crazy monkey.”

“(My friends) consider me a monkey because I bounce off the walls,” she said.

Burnett cast 31Vocal Plus middle school students in roles for the “junior” version of The Lion King to be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday in Chanute’s Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door.

The story of a lion cub growing up into the role of King contains all the usual characteristics of a Disney classic, good versus evil, characters struggling with responsibility and doing “the right thing,” lively music, and humor for young and old.

“It’s very exciting and very moving. There are exciting parts but also sad and sinister parts, something for everyone,” Calhoun said.

Eighth grader Thomas Ramsey said he plays the antagonist in the musical, the Lion King’s brother, Scar, who was next in line to the throne until the lion cub Simba was born.

With his deep voice he can imitate Scar, Ramsey said, but in other ways the role has been a challenge.

“You have to be arrogant, sulk around and be lazy,” Ramsey said. Typically quiet and reserved, he’s “learning to have more drama in his acting.”

Yet he’s enjoying it.

“It’s a fun experience to have (and) I’m hanging out with my friends.”

The fact that this is a first musical experience for most of them is making it an exciting time, the director pointed out.

“They are a great group of kids and really enjoy making quality music,” Burnett said.  “In addition, the story and music are really good so that helps.”

“I really like the experience of doing a musical. It’s really fun,” said Emma Atherton, who plays Nala, a female lion. “I really like bonding with different people in your class.”

There is a lot of memorization involved, she said, and the cast members in the same scenes work together to get all the lines learned.

“We’ve worked very hard. We spent a lot of time trying to perfect things,” she added.

Calhoun thought she wouldn’t be comfortable on stage, but found that wasn’t the case.

“It’s really fun to be in a musical with other girls who are getting into it as much as you are,” she said.

Nathan Stanley, who plays the mature Simba, agreed.   

“I like being part of something big and helping put it together,” he said.

“I think it’ll be pretty fun, Ramsey said. “It’s a play that will help encourage the youngsters to pursue something they enjoy doing.”

For Burnett, the challenge has been costuming. There are more costumes and costume changes than in any other show he’s done. It’s taken a lot of volunteers from school and the community to help pull it all together.

“Hundreds of hours have been put into making this a quality production,” Burnett said. “I hope people enjoy the show as much as the kids enjoy performing it.”

Members of the cast of The Lion King Jr. are:

Rafiki, Lena Aguilar; Mufasa, Ty Galemore; Sarabi, Breann Umbarger; Zazu, Grace Thompson; Scar, Thomas Ramsey; Young Simba, Parker Manly; Young Nala, Ashton Akers; Sarafina, Abigail Smith; Shenzi, Trystin Calhoun; Banzai, Ty Leedy; Ed, Brinly Bancroft; Timon, Tyra Bogle; Pumba, Drew Owens-Young; Simba, Nathan Stanley; Nala, Emma Atherton; Lionesses, Kaia Barkman, Karli Bash, Aaliyah Colding, Preston Keating, Kamri Naff, Jaydine Stiles, Rheniah Toledo; Hyenas, Kayl Allen, Megan Kueser, Karsyn Letterman, Trey Smoot, Sierra Stanley, Jonathan Taylor, Janessa Varndell, Xander Weilert.

Helping direct the show is Burnett’s assistant, Krista Warstler.





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Royster Middle School
400 W Main St
Chanute, Kansas 66720
Phone: 620.432.2520
Fax: 620.431.7841