‘The Lion King’ comes to life in VHS production

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Puppetry, acting and an iconic musical score will converge this weekend during the Vicksburg High School’s upcoming production of “The Lion King.”

Unlike the animated Disney movie that was first released in 1994, the stage production boasts not only elaborate costuming, but also Balinese puppetry, which, is described as a story told through shadows thrown by puppets and sometimes combined with human characters.

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“Both Zazu and Pumbaa are puppets held or worn throughout the entire show,” assistant VHS choral director Kristy Brumfield said.

Other animal characters come to life with masks worn atop the head, Brumfield said, which allows their faces to still show and express emotion.

“Our audience will be amazed at the incredible costumes. Many parents and volunteers have worked countless hours to create the Pridelands, where grass, flowers, and jungle creatures come alive, as have the students, who have learned to act and navigate the stage with large headpieces — some even on stilts,” she said.

Brumfield said each costume piece has been handcrafted and hand-painted to closely match those used in the Broadway production.

The VHS production will offer performances on Friday and Saturday at the school’s auditorium. Shows will begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are $8 and can be purchased at the door or from any cast member.

Brumfield said the decision to tackle such an undertaking as “The Lion King” depended on many aspects.

“The directors must factor the cost of production, royalty fees, costumes, and equipment for set construction, also the current year’s talent pool is a factor as well. Directors love to find hidden gems among the student body,” Brumfield said, “And this year casting our leads was a challenge. We have an extremely talented student body, which is a great problem to have.”

Brumfield said, “The leads in the production were chosen by matching a student’s vocal strengths and abilities with the demands of the character.”

Timon and Pumbaa are played by May Spangler and Alston Harris, respectively.

Brumfield said the pair was chosen for their chemistry and comedic timing.

Kameren Batty was cast as Mufasa, she said, because of his great roar, and Brandon Buxton and Mary Parsons play Simba and Nala, respectively.

“They needed to have voices that blended beautifully for the show’s signature ballad, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Brumfield said said.

Rounding out the leading roles are Rafiki, played by Alaya Burns, Scar played by Eddie Stewart and Zazu, played by Abigail Hughes.

Rehearsals for “The Lion King” began in October, and along with Brumfield and VHS choral director Angela Chapin, students, too, have spent many hours learning musical numbers, choreography, and staging,

“The puppetry and headpieces have required extra hours spent practicing certain scenes that involve extensive physicality.”

More than 60 students are involved with the VHS production, and one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of directing the show, Brumfield said, has been watching new students participate in something positive like a school musical.

And with the all the student participation, Brumfield said, they have added a pre-show feature of African percussion and dance. 

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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