‘Lion King Jr.’ let’s the kids shine in bringing Disney’s animated favorties to life

Hannah Walters (Young Nala), Jonathon Lewis (Simba), Quinn Diamond (Odell Nala), Valerie Wagner (Scar), Porter Lewis (Young Simba), Trevor Musgrove (Mufasa) and Sidney Grove, on floor (Timon).
Hannah Walters (Young Nala), Jonathon Lewis (Simba), Quinn Diamond (Odell Nala), Valerie Wagner (Scar), Porter Lewis (Young Simba), Trevor Musgrove (Mufasa) and Sidney Grove, on floor (Timon). Gulfport Little Theatre

Many people know the story of “The Lion King,” based on the hit 1994 Walt Disney animated film of the same name.

Set in the African Pridelands, “The Lion King” is a coming of age story of lion cub Simba.

Characters include his awesome father, Mufasa, his evil uncle Scar, young love interest Nala and goofy mere cat Timon, and Director Bonnie Hoag and her youthful charges bring this story to life in Gulfport Little Theater’s “The Lion King Jr.,” which opened June 23 and runs through Sunday.

Hoag offers an enticing evening of fun in this production, and Gulfport Little Theater continues its run as the Coast theater offering the most opportunities for kids to tread the boards on the South Mississippi stage.

Importantly, this theater’s production values do not diminish when presenting summer kids’ productions; the musical direction and choreography do not disappoint, and Hoag coaxes worthy performances from her youthful cast.

Hannah Walters is adorable as Young Nala and Valarie Wagner offers a welcome contrast as the evil lion Scar. Porter Lewis as the Young Simba, Quin Odell as Nala and Trevor Musgrove as the kingly Mufasa take on difficult roles, attempting to portray the strongest characters in the piece, yet pulling it all off marvelously. But this show belongs to Jonathon Lewis as Simba and Sidney Grove as Timon, and under Hoag’s watchful eye, they bring this piece home with verve, reminding the audience why the magic comes alive on stage in ways with which the cinema cannot hope to compete.

The Lion King Jr.

Presented by: Gulfport Little Theatre

Where: Pass Road at 13th Ave., Gulfport

Show times/dates: Friday and Saturday and Sunday; Friday and Saturday curtains are 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinee is 2 p.m.

Starring: Hannah Walters (Young Nala); Jonathon Lewis (Simba); Quinn Diamond (Odell Nala); Valerie Wagner (Scar); Porter Lewis (Young Simba); Trevor Musgrove (Mufasa); Sidney Grove (Timon)

Lionesses/Tribal Spirits: Ja’Najah Agee, Annalise Hoeg, Caroline Lewis, Heleena Mason, Eryl Diamond-O’dell, Bridey Walters, Jurnee Wright

Grass Ensemble/Tribal Spirits: Emily Bennett, Imani Evans, Annalise Hoeg, Sidney Grove, Katherine Johns, Katherine Keith, Caroline Lewis, Kathryn Otto, Jada Seymour, Morgan Valentine, Kady Wilkerson, Bethany Williams

Hyenas/Wildebeests: Micah Bishop, Mia Cheeley, Olin Dorris, Aaron Hermann, Faith, Hermann, Morgan Hermann, Josiah Lewis, Kathryn Otto, Blayden Regan, Luke Skrmetta,

Jazzlyn Wilson

Animals/Children’s Ensemble: giraffe 1: Eryl Diamond-O’dell; giraffe 2: Juliette Locklar; zebra: Kaelyn Ghiloni zebra: Elliana Nickens; zebra: Mazzy Regan brown bird: Karlene Horton;

brown bird: Liv Johns white bird: Katelyn Goodson; white bird: Emily Bennet; white bird: Quinn Diamond-O’dell; white bird: Mia Cheeley antelope: Morgan Valentine; antelope: Jordan Waters parrot: Danielle Altendorfer; baby elephant: Josiah Lewis; cheetah: Abigail Locklar; ram: Micah Bishop; ram: Olin Dorris; elephant: Sidney Grove, Annalise Hoeg

Pruduction Crew: Director: Bonnie Hoeg; Producer: Lori Grove; Assistant Director: Janice Murphy; Stage Manager: Rachel Thone; Choreography: Autherius Lawson; Choreography Assistant: Tyler Santiago; Music Director: Emily Barnes; Set Design: Bonnie Hoeg, Mike Mooar; Light Design: Trey Brazeal; Sound Design/operator: Mark Otto; Costume Design: Map Kids; Set Construction: Cal Walters, Donna Thone; Light Operator: Janice Murphy; Make-Up: Megan Walters, Cody Ghiloni; Prop Mistress: Betsy Noll; Backstage Manager: Angel Barnes; Stage Crew: Maria Altendorfer, Za’kayla Buckhaulton, Grace Keith, Eddy Johns, Aisling Noll

Synopsis: Based on the hit 1994 Walt Disney animated film of the same name, “The Lion King Jr.” is set in the African Pridelands and tells the coming-of-age story of lion cub Simba. Introduced to the animal kingdom as the heir to Pride Rock by his father Mufasa, Simba’s birth has unsettled his Uncle Scar who finds himself relegated down the line of succession, and he plots along with his hyenas to kill both Mufasa and Simba in order for him to become King. As Simba grows up and begins to test the boundaries, Mufasa teaches him about the circle of life and their place within the ecosystem.

Tickets: $15 general admission

Reservations/details: 228-864-7983; 251-689-7167