SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Chris Slavicek is the newly-elected mayor of Helmetta, but to Appleby students past and present, he is the much beloved Mr. Chris. Slavicek returned from his retirement as the director of the Appleby Elementary Drama Club to direct the annual spring drama performace. This year fifth grade students performed "The Lion King Jr." It was Slavicek's fourteenth show.

Transforming the Spotswood High School cafetorium stage into the African pridelands, students became grass, gazelles, rhinos, giraffes and zebras. There was even an elephant that took four students, Katrina Cicero, Jason Delgado, Omar Elshazly and Robert Sands, to create.

With the Prideland Players providing the music, students told the story of the young lion cub who would be king were in not for his scheming Uncle Scar. Matthew Millroy played the young cub and Anthony LoSacco was his underhanded relative. Both boys did a wonderful job with their roles, which included some rather challenging lyrics.

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Caden Dowgin and Brian Kubiak garnered a lot of laughs as Pumbaa and Timon, the loveable warthog and meerkat, who teach the disgraced lion cub their motto on life.

From the lionesses to the hyenas and all the characters in between, the entire cast and crew delivered a delightfully fun and lively performance of the Disney classic.

The show opened on April 14 and the students perfromed four shows in three days including an April 13 dress rehearsal performance for area seniors.

It just wouldn't be spring without a performance by Appleby Drama Club. It is a fifth grade tradition that most students experience and never forget. The crew also included Appleby alumni. Current Spotswood High School freshman, Samantha Wasserman, Megan McCook and Stephanie Gumprecht, volunteered their time to assist in the production. Gumprecht served as the assistant choreographer while Wasserman and McCook were sound technicians.

Many parents and teachers also gave of their time to assist with set building, costume design and music. Jerry Hook, whose daughter Ashley was in the production, played drums in the Prideland Players.

Just as Simba learned that every person must occupy their position in the circle of life, students learn invaluable lessons in the rewards of dedication, hard work and of course the tremendous importance of the arts in and outside of education.

Hakuna Matata!