An award-winning organization, La Jeunesse Choirs has been giving kids in Northumberland County the musical curriculum they might not get in school for 30 years. Each year they put on a renowned concert at Christmas. Putting on a full-scale Broadway musical is a new addition to their repertoire, and this year La Jeunesse and a cast of talented kids in their musical theatre program are introducing The Lion King, Jr. to Victoria Hall in Cobourg.

Youths ages nine to 18 perform in the show directed by Markus Howard, whose voice and theatre career speak to his passion and expertise. He’s a full-time arts educator, and in addition to La Jeunesse, he also runs The Guelph Youth Singers and conducts another choir in London, Ont. “The arts teaches compassion and inclusion,” he says. He also sees kids learning leadership and mentorship skills, not to mention the commitment and discipline necessary for such an ambitious undertaking. “A choir is a community. We’re teaching community-building.”

The production is a community effort; just getting the costumes together takes a team of six, lead by award-winning costume designer Delphine White. The kids made their masks from papier maché and recycled cardboard from cereal boxes; the materials for the sets were donated. Everyone on the production team is a volunteer, giving thousands of hours of time to make sure they have the show ready in time for the premiere on June 14. Uniting them all is a love of theatre.

It’s a magnificent show. Not only is the music excellent (they are a choir, don’t forget), there’s also some serious acting talent showcased here. The comedy stylings of Camryn Chalovich, who plays Timon, and her endearing straight man Pumba, played by Kyra Fingas, will have you in stitches. You’ll fall in love with the ingenuous Simba and Nala, played by Bria Chalovich or Sara Deleeuw and Kira Gelineau or Killari Geale (in alternating performances.) Scar, played by Zoe Fingas, steals every scene she’s in.

“The message of the show is the importance of family and tradition, which is accessible to both adults and kids,” Markus says. If you want to experience a bit of magic this weekend, go to Victoria Hall and see the Lion King, Jr. For performance times and to purchase tickets, visit the website here.

The Lion King, Jr.
The Concert Hall at Victoria Hall
June 14, 7 p.m.
June 15, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
June 16, 2 p.m.