Foreground, from left to right: Kenai Middle School seventh grader Cooper Tallent-Darling and eighth grader Gavin Hunt act as their “Lion King” characters, Simba and Mufasa, while the rest of the cast acts in the background. The school drama department recorded and filmed a rendition of the Disney movie and premiered it in May 2021. (Photo provided by Kenai Middle School drama)

Foreground, from left to right: Kenai Middle School seventh grader Cooper Tallent-Darling and eighth grader Gavin Hunt act as their “Lion King” characters, Simba and Mufasa, while the rest of the cast acts in the background. The school drama department recorded and filmed a rendition of the Disney movie and premiered it in May 2021. (Photo provided by Kenai Middle School drama)

Kenai Middle School produces movie musical rendition of ‘The Lion King Jr.’

The film is available to stream online this weekend.

With all the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Kenai Middle School drama class didn’t know how they’d put on a spring performance this year.

“We’re going to find a way,” said Brian Lyke, an eighth grade drama teacher at the school.

Lyke, who has only been a drama teacher for two years, decided on a massive undertaking: He was going to direct a film reenactment of “The Lion King Jr.” with his students.

“I keep having to pinch myself … how did we accomplish this?” Lyke said.

He directed, shot and edited the musical movie — his “labor of love” — and made it available to stream free of charge.

This is the final weekend to stream the movie. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Last weekend, Lyke said, 45 devices tuned in, which he estimates was around 200 people. He said it was nice to be able to include out-of-state loved ones in the musical this year.

Although he put in countless hours, Lyke said he had a lot of help with the production.

Among the creative team were Music Director Tammy Vollom-Matturo, Choreographer and Assistant Director Megan Smith and Costume and Scenic Designer Sammie Johnson.

Lyke said the four knew they wanted to do a musical this year, especially after theirs was canceled last spring because of the pandemic. This year, they planned on a production that would most likely come to fruition regardless of COVID-19 mitigation protocols.

Vollom-Matturo said she had to be creative with how they could pull off the movie in school. She taught the drama kids all “The Lion King Jr.” songs through Zoom.

“I feel like she went a little bit above and beyond. She pulled off 50 minutes of songs in another language,” Lyke said. “What she accomplished is insane — it should not be possible.”

In the movie, all the audio is from the choir room recordings of the students actually singing each number.

“I’m blown away with how the project ended up,” Vollom-Matturo said. “We’ll have this movie forever … it’s a snapshot of their middle school years.”

Before they could begin the movie, Lyke said he had to earn the copyrights to the Disney musical.

Then he bought a camera and researched lighting and sound equipment for the production. Lyke said he ended up receiving more than $660 in donations for the materials. Additionally, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District lent the drama students high-quality recording equipment.

Lyke also said the students put in many hours of rehearsing and filming. He would pull kids to practice during their lunch and study hall periods, and they even put in two Saturdays worth of work.

“Everyone worked a little harder than they thought they would, which I think shows in the final project,” Lyke said.

Tickets are available at the Kenai Middle School Drama website for free or with an optional donation for future productions. The movie is only available to stream during the showtimes listed and not on demand.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kenai Middle School seventh-grader Azilyn Hall acts as her “Lion King” character Rafiki. The school drama department recorded and filmed a rendition of the Disney movie and premiered it in May 2021. (Photo provided by Kenai Middle School drama)

Kenai Middle School seventh-grader Azilyn Hall acts as her “Lion King” character Rafiki. The school drama department recorded and filmed a rendition of the Disney movie and premiered it in May 2021. (Photo provided by Kenai Middle School drama)

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