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franklin county times

RMS presents: ‘The Lion King’

Lionesses in RMS’ “The Lion King” keep it fierce.
Lionesses in RMS’ “The Lion King” keep it fierce.

The costumes have been rented from New York. Professional lighting and sound technicians have been hired. The stage is set, and only a few more rehearsal days remain before the curtain rises on Russellville Middle School’s “The Lion King.”

“You can’t help but love it. To be able to have this opportunity to see it here in our town is a huge deal,” said drama teacher Patrice Smith, who combined with choral director Emily Rush to help bring this production to life. “It’s not something that happens often, that you get this big of a show that a middle school cast can handle.”

Students were eager to embrace the challenge.

“It’s one of the most elaborate ones we’ve put out because we have to speak different languages,” said Ethan Howard, eighth grade (Zazu).

“The songs are in Zulu, Swahili – African languages,” added Jacob Davis, eighth grade, (Simba).

Although having to learn the language of the songs came as surprise, the students have been working hard to make the production stage-ready. The performance will include everyone’s favorite scenes and songs from the Broadway production and the Disney classic – like “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “He Lives in You,” which is seventh grade (Sarabi) Callie Palmer’s favorite.

“It’s really pretty, and the dance goes along really well with it,” Palmer said.

Smith said it will be a magical experience to see this perennial classic performed by Russellville students.

“We’re proud of these kids, and proud of Russellville, and that’s what this show is about,” Smith said. “They amaze us every day. The dedication and determination of these kids – they’re not just drama and show choir kids. They have ball games and competitions and lessons – we don’t have a single kid who is not involved in something else. To see them put so much into our show and then go put into everything they’ve got into another extracurricular is really impressive to me.”

“They are just as big of stars on athletic fields and rocketry teams and anything else we have to offer as they are on stage,” Rush agreed.

Rush said this is RMS’ largest cast to-date and largest production.

Students each have their own favorite songs, and for different reasons, from the plot-revealing “Be Prepared” to the lighthearted fun of “Hakuna Matata.” They said they are excited to bring the experience to the stage for the community.

“It’s very upbeat, and I think everybody plays their part really well,” said Maggie Pinkard, eighth grade, (gazelle).

Davis said he thinks the audience will enjoy a special moment in the middle of “He Lives in You,” when the spirit of Mufasa returns to help guide a troubled Simba back home. “Mufasa comes back to talk to Simba … I’m going to be looking down into the water and see Mufasa’s face and be talking to him about why I can’t go back,” Davis said. “I think that’s really neat – that we’re going to be able to interact with someone who’s dead in the play.”

A central theme of the “The Lion King” is that enduring connection to family, and that’s something Brantson Lambert, eighth grade (Scar), said he think the audience will really see in the performance. “The storyline and everything really brings up the importance of family … It has the loss of Mufasa and just how important he was,” Lambert said. “(Simba) comes back, and the musical shows how important that is.”

Performance will be staged April 28 and April 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the RCS auditorium. Tickets are $5 at the door for school age and up. In addition to the main event, fifth grade choir students will provide an opener to the show, performing some jungle-themed tunes to set the mood. The evening will also incorporate creative works by West Elementary School students, whose Lion King-themed artistic works will be displayed in the lobby

“This is something everybody of every age can enjoy,” Rush said. “We’re working toward making this a system-wide project.”