It has been observed that kids say the darnedest things. With that in mind, some of the Portsmouth Elementary cast members for their production of “The Lion King” talked Thursday about the play and about their parts for the show that starts tonight.
Talia Fontes, who is playing Rafiki 2, a Mandrill, says she is excited about the play. “I think it is going to turn out good.”
Taylor Thomas, a Rafiki 1, said, “I tried out for Zazu, but I’m happy with this.”
Kylie Under, who is Timon, says she likes doing her part, and she tried out for that part in particular, and that it’s fun.
Olivia Dickerson, who will portray Pumbaa, says she, too, is very excited, and she has all of her lines memorized. “I wanted to be Timon, but I tried out for Pumbaa to make one of my friends happy. I ended up getting that part.”
Alyvia Waughtel, Rafiki 3, said she has a lot of lines, and she knows them all and is very excited for this play.
Landon Adkins, the young man playing Mufasa, says, “It is difficult to do the accent, but I am really excited. I actually tried out for Timon,” but says he is happy with this part.
Deandre Berry is a hyena, and he says, “They are fun to play, and I have to sing.” He said he likes to sing, though.
Ally Lewis, who is playing Shenzi, who is another one of the main hyenas, says she has a lot of talking and is funny, but she has all her lines memorized.
Tyrin Lewis is portraying Ed, “the real stupid hyena,” according to Lewis. “I don’t have a lot of lines — just a lot of laughs. It’s mainly what I do.”
Josie Ortiz, playing Rafiki 5, says, “I wasn’t here for audition day, but there was one more spot open, and when I tried out, I made the part.”
Madison Bowling, who will play Banzai, says she had a little bit of lines and movement, and that playing the hyena is fun.
Josh Kirkendall, the young man portraying Simba, said he, of course, has a lot of lines to memorize. He says he knows all his lines and is ready.
Keegen Newman, who plays Rafiki 4, when speaking of the costumes for the Rafikis, Newman said, “they’re African,” which got a laugh from the rest of the cast.
The lady who has put this together is Portsmouth Elementary music teacher Laurie O’Brien. O’Brien has a group of 47 for this play, which includes the choir. She said they audition for the choir in the fall and are guaranteed to be in the musical from there.
O’Brien said they held auditions for “The Lion King” in January, and started rehearsals in February. As for practice, every choir member comes on Thursdays, and they break it up by scenes for the other nights. Some of the characters, however, end up rehearsing every night. “About two weeks ago, we started going every day until 4:30 with everybody, and then this week we have everybody until 6 or later.”
The other choir director is Twilite Pack. O’Brien also has Jenny Goddard, who also helps because her daughter is in the play and she works at the school. “It’s the kids in their costumes that make this show.”
O’Brien said she received a grant, which helped fund the production. “[The grant] bought our entire show kit (scripts and all) and bought the license to run the show and the video license.” O’Brien says they will be selling raffle tickets both days — which are $8 for one ticket and $10 for two tickets — for a chance to win a $100 Walmart card.
Another person O’Brien has helping this year is PHS senior Sarah Simmons, who made some of the costumes they had to make because they couldn’t rent them. She also made some of the props. Simmons did this to earn hours for her National Honor Society project. There were others who helped, also to earn hours for NHS. And, lastly, another person who helped was Alan Lute, one of the elementary art teachers, who painted the backdrop.
Speaking about this week’s practice, O’Brien said, “Last night (Wednesday) was the first time we put them in costume, and just the difference on the stage and how they acted, like ‘Oh wow, this is real!’”
Judy Smith, who used to be the other elementary music teacher, also helps run the stage crew, along with her daughter, high school music teacher Emily Crandall, who O’Brien taught when she was in the sixth grade. O’Brien worked at Portsmouth from 1998-2003, then wanted to try her hand in high school. She went to Pike County for 11 years, and then four years ago, she said her daughter went to kindergarten and she decided to apply to come back.
O’Brien noted that the choir is not just Portsmouth Elementary students, but that there are also four kids from East Portsmouth Elementary School. The four East Portsmouth students were unable to be included in the cast photo, but O’Brien wanted to make sure they were acknowledged, that they too are participants.
As for the show that is presented tonight and Saturday afternoon, O’Brien spoke of it being bittersweet, mostly because of being exhausted. “You want to be able to get back to a normal routine and see your own kid, but then you think of the kids that you won’t see everyday anymore, and that’s the bittersweet.”
O’Brien added that, after the play and at the end of the school year, she take the kids on a field trip to a musical, which will be May 30.
Teachers are just now starting to get some well-deserved credit for all they do, like putting together this production with so many children and all that entails. A tip of the hat to O’Brien.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins at 740-353-3101 ext. 1928