Since April, Jennifer Kohler, director and costume designer-builder, had been exploring costume ideas on Pinterest for Roberta Jones Junior Theatre’s production of Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.,” playing July 25-27 at the Mission City Center for Performing Arts. Costumes for the rhinos and leopards were constructed from Styrofoam and luan (a thin wood). The hyena costumes came from t-shirts and beanies with applied felt. Kohler crafted lion masks from DiGiorno pizza boxes, dried grass, Popsicle sticks and a cut-up broom, among other materials.
“For all the lion masks, I made a pattern first out of paper and then used a soda box’s cardboard to create the templates,” said Kohler, inspired by Broadway attire. “I would use the templates to cut out pieces on the DiGiorno pizza boxes and then assemble the mask. The grass and other details were hot glued on.”
During the July 24 dress rehearsal, Kohler’s costumes brightened up the stage as 68 young actors illustrated the story of the lion Simba, who believed he caused the death of his father, the lion king Mufasa (Nicky Caldwell). Overwhelmed with guilt, Simba left the Pride Lands. After reconnecting with his childhood friend Nala, Simba returned home as a grown lion. Here he learned that his uncle Scar had killed his father.
“I always saw the villain as the most fun role to play in a production,” said Davis Fischer, 15, who played Scar. “It seemed like everyone was rooting against Scar from the beginning. He was always in the shadow of his older brother Mufasa and of course that would lead to some anger.”
Alyssa Hall, 15, played the assertive lioness Nala.
“Nala teaches to stand up for what you believe in,” said Hall. “For example, when Scar is destroying the Pride Lands she stands up to him. She also talks sense into Simba and tells him to go back home and stand up for what he believes in.”
“The story is about a person’s destiny and their relationship with their family and the discovery of one’s own values,” said Kevin Cornelius, recreation supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s a journey of self-discovery for Simba.”
Ava Razon, 12, who played Young Simba, talked about the power of positive friendships.
“Simba is optimistic and energetic and couldn’t wait to be king,” Razon said. “After a terrible tragedy happens, he abandons that life to go with Timon and Pumbaa (Josh Hall and Bella Kolodzieski, respectively) into this jungle where he lives for a long time. Friends help you get through the hard times. Hard experiences can make you learn new things and grow as a person.”
Sean Wainzinger,15, who played the older Simba, depicted the mature lion’s homecoming and climactic confrontation with Scar.
“Once Nala comes back into Simba’s life, he gets a refresher on what his destiny is and what he needs to do in his life and how he needs to go back and help the others,” Wainzinger said. “From then on he learned to have better judgement of others instead of blindly trusting [individuals such as] Scar. He gained a better point of view in regards to what it means to be a king and what it means to be a lion.”