Several years ago, Cherokee students took to the stage and presented
"Lion King Jr." which was the first musical production in the history
of Cherokee Central Schools (CCS). Now, many of those same students
a lot of them now seniors at Cherokee High School, are revisiting
the play for a set of upcoming performances.
"Lion King Jr." will be presented by the Cherokee Musical Theatre
program at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center on Thursday,
Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 14
at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are
only $5 per person.
"Our senior class this year is filled with kids that I have always
called 'The Trailblazers'," said Michael Yannette, Cherokee Performing
Arts program director. "They started the Performing Arts Program
at CCS when they were in middle school with 'Lion King Jr.' They
have grown so much now and have had years of performing experiences
in musicals and as part of the Cherokee Chamber Singers."
in the Cherokee Musical Theatre program, all seniors at Cherokee
High School, pose with costumes and props from their upcoming
production of "Lion King Jr." They are shown, left to right,
including Staci Spicer, Acecia Lambert, Logan Lequire,
and Silas Driver. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photo)
Growth is one of the major differences in this year's cast.
"They were terrified of the whole thing five years ago," said Yannette.
"Now, they are really talented and developed performers and are
just killing it! I'm really so proud of them and what they have
achieved for themselves and their community."
Acecia Lambert, senior, is reprising her role as Nala. "It's really
interesting to be reprising the role because I never really thought
that we would be able to do it again. I thought it was just a one-time
thing. Now that we're back and we can see the progress we've made,
it's more like deepening the relationship that I have with my character
and finding out why she thinks the way she does."
Logan Lequire, senior, played the part of the lovable Pumba in
the original production, but this time around he is taking the villain
role of Scar.
The differences in the two characters provide a challenge that
Lequire is relishing. "It's definitely a completely opposite pole
character from Pumba because you go from being the goofball to being
the serious, maniacal bad-guy of the show. It's definitely a big
change from what I was doing originally, but I'm just hoping to
bring more of the deep, personal emotions to Scar rather than just
being overpowering. It's more of a maniacal character."
Silas Driver, senior, is reprising his role as Ed, one of the hyenas.
"When I first did this, I was kind of shy at that point in
a shell. But now that I've had the experience of doing all of this,
it's opened me up to do what I couldn't do back then."
Staci Spicer, senior, is playing the part of Sarabi this time around.
During the first production, she worked more back stage and had
a small part as a bird. "I definitely work on processing their (characters)
emotions and work on relating to the character more."
Valerie Tissue was the original choreographer on "Lion King Jr.",
and she is back in that role for this production. "This is my first
year as a full-time teacher here, but five years ago when they first
did this show Yannette called me and asked if I would come do the
choreography. It was their first musical ever. They were great then,
but the growth that has happened in just the short five years is
amazing. The choreography, and the level of choreography, and some
of the intricate stuff we're doing, never would have been possible
five years ago."
She added, "It's a totally different ballgame. They've grown so
much. To see how far the program has come and to be a part of it,
I'm really proud."
Yannette is very pleased with that end of the production, "The
kids are so much more alive and capable as dancers and so the choreography
is much more complex."
Megan Barnes, Cherokee Middle School art teacher, is reprising
her job as art director for "Lion King Jr."
"From five years ago when we were just papier mache and cardboard,
because we really didn't have a budget set up for this, to making
more professional items, incorporating more Cherokee designs throughout
the animals, it's really fun to see where we were five years ago
to now," she said. "We literally have the same play to compare it
to. And, it's fun just watching how the students are going to interact
with the puppetry and really put themselves into animal movements."
Yannette praised the artistic design, "Megan Barnes has really
upped her game in the creation of the Lion King animals from five
years ago utilizing foam molding techniques that are producing incredible
Community support for the Cherokee Performing Arts program has
been constant and true since its inception.
"We have gotten a lot of community support throughout the past
five years," said Lambert. "We wouldn't be able to do it without
them. A lot of this is for them. We're reprising the roles because
we're graduating, but also because it's a community favorite."
Barnes said community support has been wonderful as well as support
from CCS administration and the CCS School Board. "Having the faith
in us to have the students do something through the arts in multiple
ways dancing, singing, art, etc. We get constant support
The students and production crew are all looking forward to people
coming to see their latest production.
Lequire added, "Five years later, I still have people come up to
me and remember all of us from the original production."
Tissue noted, "It's going to be huge for people who saw it before
to come and see the growth that's happened with the whole program."