Calcutta: A rugby player turned actor, a boy who watched The Lion King multiple times to perfect his nuances as Simba, another who started off on a nervous note but gained confidence with every rehearsal. The result: a standing ovation from the audience at the end of all three shows.
Around 70 students of Future Hope School, aged six to 18 years, staged The Lion King at GD Birla Sabhagar on December 21 and 22 to mark the institution's 30 years. It was the school's first large-scale independent production on stage.
The first day, first show was for the families of the students, mostly first-generation learners or belonging to the marginalised section of society. Many from the audience do not understand English and had never even heard about The Lion King. Yet, by the end of the show they were picking their favourites from Simba, Mufasa and other characters.
Day II saw the team performing before 600 schoolchildren, including those from Mahadevi Birla World Academy who had staged the musical last year. "The school donated props that our team retouched," said Sujata Sen, the CEO of Future Hope.
For three months, the students rehearsed from 1.30pm to 6pm every day. Most of the actors also sang.
"I am a state rugby player who would occasionally act. To be part of a production like this is a dream come true. The most difficult part was singing and emoting with equal passion," said Manish Thapa of Class XI, who played Simba on stage.
His younger version was played by Tareque Hossain of Class IX who watched the film hundreds of times to get into the skin of the character. "Slowly I started having fun," he said.
Playing a sport since childhood helped the students execute the jumps, sommersaults and other acrobatics with perfect timing and yet have the stamina to sing along with the choir.
Their hard work also showed in the execution of dialogues. "Initially I had no clue what I was doing. But slowly I became confident," said state rugby player Arpan Chetri of Class XII, who played Mufasa.
There was an audio-visual screen for special effects. In several scenes, the actors got down from the stage and performed from audience space. Kids roared with laughter at the antics of Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and a warthog.
Jhili Singh Yadav's Nala and Setaur Rahaman's Scar were particularly appreciated. Setaur admitted how nervous he was initially. "I would practise for hours before a mirror," said the rower and a student of Class XII. His father was moved by his son's talent. "This is the first time I am watching a musical and to see my son playing the main character is a treat," said Faizul, who works with Calcutta police.
The musical was directed by Amlan Chowdhury.