SPARTA, NJ – The auditorium at Sparta High School is being overrun with wild animals as The Lion King Jr comes to the stage.  Beginning on Thursday the students of the Sparta Middle School will be performing this popular musical based on the Broadway production.

The double cast is in their final rehearsals bringing Pumba, Nala, Rafiki, Zazu, Musafa and Scar and many others to life for audiences on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Backstage the enthusiasm and excitement is contagious as the student actors peek from the wings, silently singing along with those on stage and walking through choreography anticipating their turn to perform.

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Georgia Paraskos playing Zazu in her first show said, “It’s good.  It’s a great way to make friends.”

Stephanie Villar playing Ed the hyena agreed, “I love it.  It is so much fun.”

Joe Liotta or Musafa on stage, said, “Yeah, it’s really pretty fun.”

A veteran in her second middle school show Jessica Berghofer plays Pumba.  She said, “It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it.”

Fernando Gomez is also in his second show.  He said, “This is a really fun experience.  Last year it was awesome to be in Annie but this is even better.”

Bedecked in beads and feathers as Rafiki Veronica Codjoe said, “It’s a wonderful learning experience.”

“Actually, this is my first time [in a show].   I really like singing and dancing,” said Bobby Fossett.  The boy with a name similar to that of a well-known stage actor added, “This is for my mom too because she really likes singing and dancing too.”

Emma McNamara and Tessa Gori share the part of Simba. Gori said, “ It is a lot of fun and hard work.  I’ve met a lot of new friends; people who have common interests.”

Emma Muth said, “It is fun and exciting and a great experience.”

Lucy Partin also plays Zazu.  She said, “It is a lot of fun and something to look forward to.  I look forward to going to school on Mondays.”

To which others added, “and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

The cast in comprised of nearly 60 Sparta Middle School students.  Tickets are $10, available at the door or in advance online.

District staff are invited to attend free of charge.  The proceeds of the ticket sales are used to support next year’s musical.