Roosevelt Middle School to present ‘The Lion King Jr.’ in May

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Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming
Jelani Remy, rear center, who currently plays Simba in ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway meets with Director Sandra Van Dyke, cast and crew of ‘The Lion King Jr.’

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Preparations and rehearsals have been under way since January for “The Lion King Jr.,” this year’s spring musical premiering at Roosevelt Middle School May 12. With grant money provided for the purchase of the play and two visits from Jelani Remy, currently playing Simba in “The Lion King” on Broadway, students have been hard at work bringing the iconic musical alive.

Director Sandra Van Dyke applied for a grant to cover the cost of purchasing the multiple award-winning play and, after receiving notification from Music Theater International that Roosevelt was one of the two schools to receive the $1,000 grant, began the required training, which included 14 two-hour sessions by cast and crew.

“The Lion King Jr.” boasts 27 cast members and 15 crew members. Musical Director Deb Rees is working with students on the score, which features popular songs like “Circle of Life” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” written by Tim Rice and Elton John.

Van Dyke, a long-time director, worked with Remy of Cedar Grove 10 years ago in productions of “Ragtime” and “Aladdin Jr.” at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center in West Orange. All it took was a phone call and Broadway’s current Simba made the trip to Roosevelt to work with the cast.

In addition to Van Dyke and Rees, parent Terri Purcell, a Broadway costume designer, is in charge of the extravagant and inventive costuming required for the production. Larry Pelham is designing the sets, which include an extension to the RMS stage, and Chante Seide, a graduate of the WOHS Class of 2015, is assistant choreographer.

Tickets are available for purchase at Performances will be in the Roosevelt Middle School auditorium May 12 and 14 at 7 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. Roosevelt Middle School is located at 36 Gilbert Place in West Orange. For more information call 973-669-5373, ext. 33300.