BWW Feature: The Great South Bay YMCA Act Out Theatre Program's THE LION KING JR. Presented at Newly Renovated Boulton Center for the Performing Arts

BWW Feature: The Great South Bay YMCA Act Out Theatre Program's THE LION KING JR. Presented at Newly Renovated Boulton Center for the Performing ArtsSince late December the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts has been dark due to major renovations of their front lobby. But this weekend the theater's in house Act Out Theatre School will debut the first show in the updated venue with a production of Disney's The Lion King Jr.

Directed by Great South Bay YMCA Cultural Arts Director Tiana Christoforidus, the production is made up of students ages six to eleven who have been hard at work on the beloved musical since September. Although the production is one of Musical Theatre International's junior selections, the show proved to be a challenging piece. However, both students and teachers were up for the challenge.

"We chose Lion King because it's got universal appeal. It's a great show, great story, great music, the kids love it - children of all ages love it," said Ms. Christoforidus. "It was also time to do something that's globally important with these children."

The show is performed with the original Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Congolese and Xhosa lyrics from the film, which were expanded upon in the Broadway musical. The show will celebrate its eleventh year on the Great White Way in November.

After getting an inside look on the production's dress rehearsal, it is clear the kids are having the time of their life decked out in full costume singing some of their favorite songs.

BWW Feature: The Great South Bay YMCA Act Out Theatre Program's THE LION KING JR. Presented at Newly Renovated Boulton Center for the Performing Arts

"I like how it's everyone together. There's different animals and everything just fits together to form the 'circle of life,'" said Julia Fink, 11, who plays Zazu. "It's just a really heartwarming story. I've watched the movie a gazillion times!"

The students also recognize the emotional poignancy of the show - especially the tearjerking scene of Mufasa's death that kicks off the more mature plot of the story.

"We get to experience the emotions of how the characters feel because this show is honestly pretty emotional," said Thomas Hemingway, 10, who plays adult Simba. "It's a different show than usual. There's a lot more feelings."

The Lion King Jr. is one of the Great South Bay YMCA's ten yearly productions, including four camp shows, said Ms. Christoforidus.

"The Act Out Theatre program started many, many years ago at the YMCA. Based on my background as a professional actor, singer and dancer - back in my day - I wanted to share that with kids," she said. "I'm very challenged by them wanting to pursue this in any way whether it's just for fun activities or to learn a new craft or to hone up on being part of a group or social skills. It's a win-win situation."

Recently, the Act Out Theatre program has expanded to the Huntington YMCA. That group has also been rehearsing their own production of The Lion King Jr. While the Great South Bay students will perform on Friday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, January 28 at 2 p.m., the Huntington students' show will go up on Saturday, January 27 at 3 p.m.

Ms. Christoforidus said there is potential for the program to expand even further with classes at the Patchogue YMCA and the East Hampton YMCA Rec Center.

Additionally, the Boulton Center has added a professional children's theatre repertory program. Upcoming public performances include "Cinderella" on Tuesday, February 20 at 11 a.m. and "The Wizard of Oz" on Thursday, February 22 at 11 a.m. during the school break. All shows are performed by adult actors. Private school field trip performances can also be scheduled through Educational Theatre Director Christopher Rosselli at boultonschooltix@ymcali.org

For more information about the programs, visit ymcali.org or boultoncenter.org.

Registration has already begun for the Great South Bay YMCA's performing arts camp senior, for completed grades five to ten, junior, for completed grades kindergarten to five, and performing arts camp main street, a "fast-paced" three-week session for completed grades three to ten.

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