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LAMusArt Stages Its 20th Camp MusArt Production, The Lion King Jr.

20369666_1400889283335806_2602829210557190007_oThe sixty young campers of this summer’s Camp MusArt performed Disney’s The Lion King Jr. for over 500 audience members on Friday July 21st in celebration of the 20th anniversary of both Camp MusArt and Broadway’s The Lion King. In the 11:00am and 2:00pm shows at the East Los Angeles College Recital Hall, performers ages 4-15 sang and danced to popular hits like “Hakuna Matata” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” as audience members marveled at hunting lionesses, colorful bird puppeteers, and an artful wildebeest stampede throughout the 70-minute show.

Camp MusArt is a five-week arts enrichment program that takes place every summer at LAMusArt’s East Third Street facility. Students ages 7-15 take daily lessons in music, art, dance, and drama and launch a fully produced musical production at the end of the fifth week. This year not only marked our 20th year of Camp MusArt, but our inaugural year of Camp Musies, a half-day program for students 4-7 years of age.

All students in the full day program have to audition for their role, but that doesn’t seem to bother many of them.

“Auditions are my favorite part because you get to play every role!” Julia Zayas, who played Zazu, said.

Bringing something new and fresh to the well-known story of The Lion King was a challenge for director and drama instructor, Lukas Kanter, but ultimately he felt the students were the key to making the show unique.

“Rather than attempt to do a full recreation of the Broadway production, we thought: what’s the most theatrical way we can approach this while still honoring the original directorial vision and iconic story? This allowed us to shape our show around the characters and the emotion of the storytelling, which in turn allowed the students to focus on giving the best performances possible.”

In addition to the sixty students who performed in Friday’s show, LAMusArt’s production of The Lion King Jr. was a labor of love for the eight staff members, four teaching artists, and five volunteers involved in the assembly of the show. Kanter not only directed the performance but headed the drama portion of the camp, while LAMusArt Ensembles Director, Austin Chanu, acted as Music Director. Francis Almendarez served as Art Director and Prop Designer and the show was choreographed by returning Dance Instructor Tiana Alvarez.

For many participants of Camp MusArt, it’s a family affair and a tradition that spans years. Many students return summer after summer for their fourth, fifth and sixth years of camp. Brianna Arias (Simba) just completed her seventh year of Camp MusArt this summer and plans to return every year until she ages out. Numerous students also bring their siblings along for the fun, like the Zayas family who had three students in The Lion King Jr., Diana Zayas as Young Simba, Julia Zayas as Zazu, and little Pedro Zayas as Mouse/Bird Puppeteer.
LAMusArt hosted over 5 groups of siblings this year.

Camp MusArt is one of LAMusArt’s most popular programs, increasing in size each year. Last year’s production of Seussical (also directed by Kanter) hosted 50 students, while 2017 brought in 60. Spots for each age group fill up fast and the performances reach capacity just as quickly.

“The kids love this program because it multidisciplinary, they get to be with their friends, and they are given a lot of autonomy to make their own choices about their characters and how they want to approach their roles in the show,” says Armando Torres, an LAMusArt staffer and sibling to a first-time camper, Daniel Torres.

“He got into it right away!” Torres says.

LAMusArt is extremely proud of our students and we look forward to next summer!

This year, Camp MusArt was sponsored in-part by the California Arts Council, Care Music and Art Exchange,El Super, Envizion Events and dozens of individual donors. Thank you for your generosity.

For photos of Friday’s performance by CBGRPHY, click here.TheLionKing(345of394)

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