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Pleasant Grove actors bring 'Lion King' to life

December 7th, 2017 by Jennifer Middleton in Texarkana News

Senior Zach Partin performs as Scar during a rehearsal on Wednesday at Pleasant Grove High School. PGHS is putting on Disney's "The Lion King Jr." Students have been practicing the musical since August. Their showings are at 7 p.m. Saturday, at 3 p.m. Sunday and at 7 p.m. Monday. Attendance is free at Pleasant Grove High School's performing art center and open to the public

Photo by Kayleigh Moreland /Texarkana Gazette.

If you've never seen a live production of the famous "Lion King" musical, now's your chance.

Pleasant Grove High School's Curtain Call Productions will present "The Lion King Jr." Saturday through Monday in the school's Performing Arts Center.

The 230 students in the production, which includes the entire fifth grade at PG Intermediate, have at least two costume changes throughout the hour and 15 minute-long musical.

Debby Sutton, PGHS fine arts chair and theatre director, said this was the largest production the school's ever put on.

"It involves more kids. It's a bigger show, more costumes, more set it is just more everything," she said.

She said she was reading scripts to decide which show to put on this year and decided it would be cool to bring the Broadway-famous show to PG.

"As I looked through it, it has curriculum with it for the younger grade levels so that my kids can go down and teach on the intermediate school campus," she said. "We went once a week since August. Every Wednesday we had an hour and a half with the fifth-grade class to incorporate them in the show. Our kids have taught them everything in the show."

Working with the fifth-graders also correlates with the school's new science, technology, arts and math curriculum, or STEAM, which began this year. She said she talked with Superintendent Dr. Jason Smith, who suggested her department work with the intermediate school. Sutton added that she's had support from not only Smith, but from her campus and the intermediate, as well.

"They have been fantastic to work with us on this," she said.

Assistant Director Steven Smith said putting the production together has had a few challenges, but that the students have learned a lot about sets, lighting and costumes since they began working on it at the beginning of the year.

"We're using things we've never used before and doing things we've never done before," he said. That includes the cyclorama screen behind the stage, which is basically a huge white shower curtain they project colors on to convey a feeling.

Senior Zach Partin performs as Scar alongside castmates playing hyenas during a rehearsal for "The Lion King Jr." on Wednesday at Pleasant Grove High School. The show comprises about 260 performers, including all of the district's fifth-graders, and more than 1,200 costume pieces.

Senior Zach Partin performs as Scar alongside castmates...

Photo by Kayleigh Moreland /Texarkana Gazette.

"Emotions. It's a key into how the audience should feel," Smith said. "It gives that little extra kick. The actors will be providing the emotion and the tech elements and also inform the audience how to feel. Symbolic purposes, too. Red when Mufasa passes away. Green signifies the villain, Scar."

The cyclorama or cyc, is also used to signify time, as in the colors of the sunrise, he said. Noah Crissman, technical director at the Perot Theatre, also worked with the students on how to design and repair the lighting in the PAC, Sutton said.

Other helpers include Whitney Glover, a 2009 PG alum who has a master's degree in scenic design from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

"She just happened to be between shows and made the mistake of coming to see me," Sutton said. Glover's assistant, Eric Cox, is also a graduate of PG, having earned his diploma in 2017.

Reagan Adams, one of the production's two stage managers, also plays Young Simba. She said she gathers inspiration from the younger actors in the musical.

"All the fifth graders we work with, I just see how energetic they are and I really feed off of that energy," she said. "I just try to match that."

Several of the actors were also required to learn puppetry, including those who play hyena roles.

The students will perform the show at 9 a.m. today, Friday and Monday for students from area schools, including Redwater, McLeod, Red Lick, Queen City, New Boston and Landmark Christian.

Public shows will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday. The Friday show was cancelled due to the Fighting Hawks football team competing in the playoffs against Melissa ISD that night in Paris.

Admission is free and tickets are available at the high school office, 5406 McKnight Road. House doors will open 45 minutes prior to the show and 10 minutes prior to curtain all the empty seats will be filled with non-ticketed patrons.

"We're not going to have an empty seat. And anybody that wants to come, come on!" Sutton said. "It is a rockin' good hour and 15 minutes. Not an exorbitantly long show, just enough to get you in a good spirit. If you leave out of here and aren't in a good mood, there's something wrong with you."

For more information, call the high school at 903-832-8005.

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