Ecker Hill Middle School students to perform ‘The Lion King’ |

Ecker Hill Middle School students to perform ‘The Lion King’

Actors eager to say ‘hakuna matata’ to packed audience

Students at Ecker Hill Middle School are getting ready to perform a production of The Lion King near the end of the month. After months of rehearsing, they are excited to perform in front of what they hope will be a packed audience.
(Bubba Brown/Park Record)

Hakuna matata: What a wonderful phrase.

That famous Disney proclamation has held true for students taking part in Ecker Hill Middle School’s annual play this school year. After months of rehearsing, the students are eager to show off their acting chops in their portrayal of “The Lion King,” which is set for two performances later this month.

Mary Morgan, a drama teacher at the school, said she chose to produce ‘The Lion King’ this year because nearly every student has seen the animated movie the play is based on, and many have strong emotional attachments to the film, one of the most popular in the Disney canon.

“It’s just a fun show and the kids enjoy it,” she said, adding that more than 100 students auditioned for the play. “It’s got lots of characters and lots of energy, and I knew that the kids would do it well.”

Jack Footer, who plays Timon, for instance, tried out for the play because of his familiarity with its source material. As well as being a fan of the animated film, he said he’s seen the play adaptation performed multiple times on Broadway in New York City. Though the student production isn’t quite the same, he’s enjoyed testing his own acting skills.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s different because it’s not as professional as what I’ve seen, but it’s still fun to see it because I’ve never done a school play before.”

Piper Croasmunchristensen, who plays the villainous hyena Banzai, however, joined the play precisely because she’s done one before. She said she caught the acting bug during a fifth-grade production of “Peter Pan” and has been itching to get back on stage ever since.

As the performances of the play draw nearer, she’s becoming increasingly eager to recite her lines in front of an audience.

“I don’t really think I’m going to get nervous, but I am super excited,” she said.

Morgan said the best part of putting on the production is watching the students progress over the months of rehearsal. They began practicing for the play in late September, and Morgan has seen the students break out of their shells and “come together as a family.” They’ll carry the life skills they’ve learned on the stage throughout their lives, she said.

“It definitely helps them to learn to get along with all kinds of personalities and how to work as a group,” she said.

Morgan is hopeful teachers, parents, students and other community members will attend the show to support the students, who have worked tirelessly to put on the production. She stressed that the play will be entertaining even for those who have no ties to the school.

Seeing the students shine in front of a packed crowd makes all the effort worth it, she said.

“We definitely have the nerves going, but it’s exciting,” she said. “It’s exciting for the kids to see the whole finished product start to come together.”

The play is scheduled to be performed Friday, Jan. 27, and Saturday, Jan. 28. Both shows will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Ecker Hill Middle School auditorium. Tickets to the show are $5 at the door.

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