Vanguard to present ‘Lion King Experience’

Photo Courtesy of Jessica Sporn
From left are Yah’Ya Kamate, Bonita Hamilton, Dwayne Clark, Janeece Freeman-Clark and Patrisha Gibson.

MONTCLAIR, NJ — Vanguard Theater Company recently announced an all-star team of instructors for “The Lion King Experience,” including workshops in African drumming, dance and mask-making. Beginning rehearsal on Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Montclair Cooperative School, Vanguard’s workshop seeks to bring its DREAM mission of diversity, reciprocity, education, awareness and mentorship to young students in grades two through six, culminating in two performances at South Orange Middle School in January.

Janeece Freeman-Clark, artistic director and co-founder of Vanguard, and husband Dwayne Clark are co-directing the program. Clark is a veteran of 12 Broadway shows, most recently the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “The Color Purple.” Yah’Ya Kamate, an African dance and drumming instructor with Alvin Ailey, joins Patrisha Gibson from the “Hairspray National Tour” as co-choreographers. Because a variety of indigenous African languages are spoken throughout the musical — Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Congolese and Xhosa, also known as the “click language” — Bonita Hamilton, who plays Shenzi in Broadway’s “The Lion King,” will serve as a mentor for the workshop, and bring aspects of the Broadway production to the young participants.

“I believe all education should be centered around excellence, including the arts. The team we have assembled is no less than that — with numerous Broadway and professional credits to their name,” Freeman-Clark said in a press release. “The instructors, who are all so accomplished at their craft, still feel it is their duty and responsibility to guide our very youngest thespians.”

Disney’s “The Lion King Experience,” is based on the wildly successful Broadway musical “The Lion King” and the animated film classic of the same name. Set in Africa, Disney’s “The Lion King Experience,” is the coming-of-age story of Simba, a lion cub, who must come to terms with the tremendous responsibility of becoming king of the Pridelands. Along the way, the young lion encounters a colorful cast of characters including spunky lioness Nala, charismatic meerkat Timon and loveable warthog Pumbaa. To claim his rightful place on the throne and save his beloved Pridelands, Simba must find his inner strength and confront his wicked Uncle Scar. “The Lion King Experience” features classic songs from the 1994 film such as “Circle of Life,” “Hakuna Matata” and the Academy Award-winning “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” as well as additional songs penned specifically for the Broadway production.

Open to all students in grades two through six, Vanguard’s “The Lion King Experience” still has spots available. More information and registration are available at