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Walsh Middle School Theater Arts Proudly Presents Disney's The Lion King JR. December 6 - 9, 2023

Framingham Public Schools

  Robert A. Tremblay, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

Sheron Doucette
Director, Producer, and Theater Arts Educator

Walsh Middle School
301 Brook Street

Framingham, Massachusetts 01701

Dr. Brian Gellerstein
Director, Fine and Performing Arts

Farley Building, 19 Flagg Drive
Framingham, Massachusetts 01702

For Immediate Release

Walsh Middle School Theater Arts Proudly Presents Disney's The Lion King JR. December 6 - 9, 2023

Community members are invited to enjoy any of the planned performances, including those featuring ASL Interpretation or a Sensory-Friendly performance.

November 30, 2023 (Framingham, MA) Walsh Middle School Theater Arts and the Framingham Public Schools Department of Fine and Performing Arts (FPA) are proud to present Disney's The Lion King JR. during several upcoming performances between December 6–9, 2023. With a variety of show times and accessible opportunities, the student and staff production team is excited to invite community members to experience months of hard work and dedication as they bring the African savanna to life on the Walsh Middle School stage.

Upcoming Performances

  • Wednesday, December 6 at 4:00pm: Sensory-Friendly, Open Dress Rehearsal (Reserve Seat) Free

  • Thursday, December 7, 2023 at 7pm: Free Open Dress Rehearsal (No Reservation or Ticket Needed)

  • Friday, December 8, 2023 at 7pm: ASL Interpreter (Buy Tickets)

  • Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 3pm: ASL Interpreter (Buy Tickets)

  • Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 7pm: Meet and Greet with the Pride (Buy Tickets)

About the Production
In this version of Disney's The Lion King JR. the cast and crew sought to embrace the African heritage, customs and traditions brought to life on stage through music, dance, staging, costumes, masks and puppetry. The Lion King JR. features classic songs from the Broadway musical and animated feature film, including “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “He Lives in You,” and “Hakuna Matata.” The story is about family, heritage, courage, resilience, friendship and owning our destiny. Join Simba, Rafiki, and an unforgettable cast of characters as they journey from Pride Rock to the jungle and back again in this inspiring, coming-of-age tale.

Cast and Crew Recruitment 

All Walsh students were encouraged through various school and community-based events to become part of the Pride. From school communications and hosting activity tables at public gatherings, the show’s Director implemented new tactics in an effort to grow the Walsh Middle School Theater Arts program.

“Walsh is a vibrant community with students from around the world, speaking a multitude of languages with a wide variety of life experiences,” said Sheron Doucette, Stage Director, Producer, and Theater Arts Teacher at Walsh Middle School. “Our community is as colorful as the landscape of Africa itself so our stage should reflect our school's diversity as well.

“In The Lion King Jr., Mufasa states, ‘Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.’ It is, to me, what we are all about, on stage, off stage, in school, in our community, in life. We need to find that balance and own our part of it. Part of that balance is looking to our community and embracing who we all are and where our program was lacking. My vision for this production was to reach out to the community and let them know that everyone has a place on our stage. Art is inclusive. We reached out to the office of Equity, Diversity, and Community Engagement, the Wrap Around Program, and our Administrative team to find and create opportunities to create awareness for the show, as well as a sense of belonging for all who might have an interest in being a part of it."

Rehearsal Process
“It is important that our students see themselves in the characters portrayed on stage, but also in the adults that are making it happen," added Sheron Doucette. "Providing a diverse team to work with students is the first step in opening the door wide. Judine Somerville, five time Broadway triple threat, a director, choreographer, teacher, inspirational speaker and arts/child advocate, agreed to be part of the production. Judine came in from New York once or twice per month during the audition and rehearsal process as our choreographer. She started by meeting and greeting students in the cafeteria on her first day at Walsh to talk about the show and introduce herself to the whole Walsh community.  During our time together she has spoken to our students about her first classes taken as a child in African dance all the way through her days as a Radio City Rockette, journey to Broadway and beyond. In between visits to Framingham, Judine recorded and sent videos with choreography and words of inspiration. Each rehearsal has truly been a master class for all involved. She has taught students to applaud each other not only for their successes that come easily but in working through their struggles. Eighth grade cast member Ada Goldman said, ‘Working with Judine Somerville has been a great experience. She has been on Broadway and she just knows it all and gets us.’ Laura Moreira, 8th grade cast member joined in with, ‘She is flexible with us. If we aren’t getting something she changes it. She motivates us to be better.’”

Judine Somerville leading choreography during rehearsal

“Rounding out our directing trio is Mariko Matusmura who joined the FPA Music Department here at Walsh at the start of the year and shortly thereafter became our Music Director,” shared Sheron Doucette. “Her expertise as a singer, teacher and musician led our students in the lofty task of singing in multiple languages including Swahili, Zulu, Sotho, and Tswana. Students were provided with a glossary to fully understand the words they sing.”

When asked about her experience working on The Lion King, Jr., Ms. Judine Somerville, said, “Working with Walsh Middle School Theatre Arts Department has been a wonderful experience. The students are ready, willing and able to create the magic that is Theatre. From the very beginning, as well as the audition process, the goal was to make sure all students knew there was a place for them on our stage. The enthusiasm, fun and hard work has paid off. Under the direction of Sheron Doucette, who is not only an educator in the Theatre Department, she is also at the helm of the production as Director. Sheron’s attention to detail and the love she has for her students, along with knowing how to nurture each person to shine bright, is remarkable. Although the students are all at different levels, the students work as a team to be sure everyone reaches their full potential. It has been such an inspiration to witness. The set, and props are built by Peter Doucette and are Broadway Fantastic. Costumes are beautiful and help to tell this story. Mariko Matsumura has done a wonderful job as Musical Director. It has been my pleasure to be a part of The Lion King Jr. at Walsh Middle School Theatre Arts.”

Photo Safari with Rob Dupcak of FramPix
Photographer, Rob Dupcak joined the Walsh Middle School Theater Arts cast and crew for a Saturday rehearsal to provide students with images of his extensive travels through various regions of Africa showing students pictures of the landscape and animals represented in this Disney classic. On why it was important to show students these images, Doucette said, “Musical Theatre is not just about learning your lines, lyrics and movement.  It is about learning to appreciate the stories of others, their culture and widening our lens to see beyond ourselves.”

Rob Dupcak presenting photos to students

Director’s Notes

In the Program Notes, Director Sheron Doucette states, “Pride is a feeling of self respect and honor,  the state of being proud of an achievement. It is having solidarity with a group  that is connected by shared identity, interests or social groupings. Pride is the affirmation of equality for all. Pride is a group of lions living together. Through this production process our Pride has become strong.

The story is not new. Disney first presented The Lion King in 1994 during its animated  renaissance. Hundreds of years before that, Shakespeare told the story of Hamlet, a young prince whose uncle seeks the throne using nefarious methods to achieve his goal. The story has been told before but stories are retold because the lessons they teach are worth retelling. Our prince in The Lion King Jr, Simba, learns about family, friendship, love, loss, legacy, the circle of life and the importance of finding your Pride.”

Photos from Recruitment Events

Adult Production Team

Choreographer and Broadway Guest Artist: Judine Somerville

Broadway Guest Choreographer

Judine Somerville

Judine Somerville has performed in five original Broadway musicals including the eight-time, Tony Award winning, smash-hit Best Musical Hairspray, where she was part of the singing trio sensation ‘The Dynamites.’ Judine is currently a Host & Adjudicator of Showstopper,  America's Greatest Dance Championships. She is also a recipient of the Steven Goldberg Award as well as the F. Lammot Belin Arts Scholarship. Judine is the recipient of the historic Legacy Robe, which is awarded to the cast member who has performed in the most Broadway musicals. She also reprised her roll for NBC-TV’s live presentation “Hairspray Live.” Directed by Kenny Leon and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, the 2016 NBC sensation featured Harvey Fierstein, Martin Short, Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana Grande, Andrea Martin, Sean Hayes and Rosie O’Donnell. Read more information on Judine Somerville and watch her video message about Disney’s Lion King, JR

Musical Director: Mariko Matsumura

Mariko Matsumura

A native of Tokyo, Japan, Mariko Matsumura received her bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance with high honors from the University of Montana and a master’s degree in Vocal Performance from Longy School of Music. Mariko's performance credits include Messiah, Aida, Hansel and Gretl, Der Rosenkavalier, The Magic Flute, and numerous premiere performances throughout the Boston area. She has performed with the Lorelei Ensemble, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Jyugoya Ensemble, Chorus Boston, Setegaya Women’s Chorus and Opera Unmet.

Director/Producer: Sheron Thorp Doucette

Sheron Doucette

Sheron joined the Framingham Public Schools in 2001 and has been directing and teaching Theatre Arts at Walsh Middle School for over twenty years. Sheron is on the Board of Trustees for Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild where she continues to be an active member promoting and advocating for Arts Education throughout the state. Sheron is co-owner of Do Sets Design, a theatrical design company specializing in scenery, props and puppetry. She is on the Board of Directors for, and is the founding Educational Director of, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston, taught Theatre and Creative Expression for the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Days in the Arts program, and was a proud member of Actors Equity Association working professionally in theatre from college to present.

Technical Director
Peter Doucette

Lights & Sound Designer
Kyle Trumble

Costume Coordinator
Maggie Dabrush

Erin Morrill

About Framingham Public Schools
The mission of the Framingham Public Schools is to educate each student to learn and live productively as a critically-thinking, responsible citizen in a multicultural, democratic society by providing academically challenging instructional programs taught by highly-qualified staff and supported by comprehensive services in partnership with our entire community. For news, updates, and announcements, follow Framingham Public Schools (@FraminghamPS) on FacebookTwitter, and (@framinghamschools) on Instagram. You can also join the conversation using #FraminghamSchools.

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