The Lion King Jr. to open Friday at The Royal Theatre

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published October 15, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Members of the Young Players met at The Royal Theatre in Benton recently to make masks for the upcoming Young Players Center Stage production of The Lion King Jr. Among the young actors are Rylee Woodard, front; and back row, from left, Hillary Arnold (wearing the Akuna T-shirt), Abby Martin, William Alverio and Alexandra Lanier.

BENTON — The Young Players Center Stage and Everett Buick GMC will present Disney’s The Lion King Jr. on Friday through Oct. 29 at The Royal Theatre, 111 S. Market St. in Benton.

Curtain times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and again Oct. 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. Oct. 22

and 29. Tickets are $15 for general admission for adults; $12 for senior citizens, members of the military and college students; and $6 for students, high school and under. Tickets are available online at For reservations, call (501) 315-5483.

Justin A. Pike of North Little Rock directs the local musical, and Daphne Shoppach of Benton is the artistic director. The Lion King Jr. is based on the Broadway production directed by Julie Taymor. It features music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional music and lyrics by Lebo M. Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Hans Zimmer. The book is by Roger Allens and Irene Macchi.

Pike said the Young Players Center Stage is a branch of the Young Players program at the Royal Theatre.

“It exists to provide advanced theatrical opportunities to like-minded, creative young people in the greater central-Arkansas area,” he said. “Center Stage stresses dedication, positivity, preparedness, community and focus as a means to success. Ages 12 to 15 are eligible to audition and participate.”

Melissa Glover of Benton, co-producer of this production with Teri Lanier of Bryant, said the Young Players Center Stage is a new group at The Royal.

“We have so many kids that we felt like we had a need to address the interests of the middle school to junior high age group,” she said. “Daphne and Justin are the founders of this group, as well as the Young Players Second Stage (YP2S). Lots of kids is a great problem to have. [The Young Players] have progressed from producing two shows a year to five shows last season.”

Glover said the Young Players group has a monthly workshop on the third Saturday each month during the school year.

“For the September workshop, we had 42 kids, and they made many of the animal masks that we will be using in The Lion King Jr.,” she said. “They look really great.”

The Lion King Jr. tells the story of the “circle of life” as it is played out on the African savanna. The play features well-known characters from the Disney musical and movie The Lion King — Simba, Rafiki and Mufasa and others — as they journey to the jungle and back again, celebrating “The Circle of Life,” the title song of the musical, which is described as an awe-inspiring story of love, hope and redemption.

Local cast members include the following:

• Chloe Luna of Sheridan appears as Rafiki.

• Maverick Burlison of Malvern plays the young Simba.

• Caitlyn Luna of Sheridan portrays the young Nala.

• Zachary Glover of Benton appears as Simba.

• Kyra Griffin of Bryant portrays Nala.

• John Straessle of Little Rock plays Mufasa.

• Jaelun Thomas of Bryant appears as Scar.

• Mia Simone Parker of Bryant plays Bonzai.

• Hannah-Grace Fritz of Benton portrays Shenzi.

• Adelyn Eiler of Little Rock appears as Ed.

• Noah Lee of Benton plays Timon.

• Carson Clay of Sheridan portrays Pumbaa.

• William Alverio of Bryant plays Zazu.

• Morgan Jones of Bryant plays Sarabi.

• Alexandra Lanier of Bryant portrays Sarafina.

Members of the ensemble include Katharine Crowe, Isaac Hutson, Olivia Kreulen, Allie Bailey, Lauren Redmond, Lauren Bond, Daisy Medders, Rylee Woodard, Tiara Moore and Katie McCallister, all of Benton; Lexie Ellis, Keetin Kinzler and Hillary Arnold, all of Bryant; Kathryn Morris, Emily Jones, Kaylei Taylor, Kenzie Taylor and Madison Courage-Fleck, all of Little Rock; and Dylan Moore of Malvern.

The local production of The Lion King Jr. features choreography by Makayla Shipe of Bryant, and stage management by Izzy Hammonds of Benton and Abby Martin of Bryant.