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Maryhaven Center of Performing Arts Proudly Presents

July 17, 2017

When you think of all the great Disney animated musicals, so many come to mind—it’s almost inconceivable how many there are and how engrained they are in the American culture. One of the most recent classics which has spawned a Broadway musical, multiple TV shows and major merchandise deals for Disney is The Lion King. What I don’t think people realize is that this movie is the second highest grossing movie in Disney history and the 30th highest grossing movie of all time (according to Wikipedia). Of course, we can look to the classic tale of good vs. evil, greed, jealousy, redemption, unconditional love of family and the incredible value of friendship as its success. I would also argue (more trivia you may not know...) that being Disney’s first animated feature based on an original story, the freedom to expand the plot and deepen the characters/storyline helped to create an even more beautiful and profound tale. 

Maryhaven Center of Hope’s Performing Arts Day Habilitation program has become legendary in itself in the Long Island theater community. For over 14 years, Maryhaven’s Performing Arts program through the talent of its individuals with special needs and its producers, choose the show, work on dialogue, choreograph, build sets, create costumes and perform in the productions. In the past they have put on revised versions (for content and the performers) of Aladdin, Hairspray, Around the World in 80 Days and Seussical. This year they are tackling a modified version of The Lion King, titled “Mfalme Simba” which is Swahili for Lion King. Performing Arts Program Manager Angelique Anzini said, “Our individuals put on a stylized version of some great shows and do an amazing job of it, incredibly on a budget of only $500 with no other sponsorships. This show, Mfalme Simba, is probably the best they’ve ever put on—but then again I think I say that before every show!” Most certainly, with greater funding and donations to the program, even more can be done to make the shows a more elaborate success. Till then the group does the best it can with its modest budget, and that is still quite impressive. 

As with all Maryhaven Performing Arts shows, the Day Hab attendees have input into what show will be performed. In this case, doing a version of The Lion King was something for which they heavily advocated, all of them knowing and loving the story. Upon choosing the show, individuals must audition for parts while the scripts are being written, with help from the producer and other program members. Additionally, individuals create and build the sets, the props and the costumes. Besides doing all the work for the shows, some performers hold many other jobs as well which is, “ important process that goes along with seeing an end result. These are teachable moments filled with learning” says Ms. Anzini of her day hab “crew”. Each day during the rehearsal period is treated as a work day, with regular jobs and responsibilities to be completed on schedule and by goals. The group takes their jobs seriously and the end result truly displays their efforts. 

Having had the privilege of being at a recent rehearsal, I got to hear several songs performed and enjoyed some of the show’s scenes. I also got to take a tour of the facilities with its very professional stage, theater lighting and control room—all of which enhance the performances. Visiting the work area and costume shop, I was astonished by what I saw: costumes that looked like they belonged on Broadway, headpieces that I guarantee will blow away the audience at their quality and design, and an incredibly creative use of materials for props and backdrops. More than anything though, I relished the sincerity and intensity of the performances. The actors simply want to entertain and touch the audience with their talents, enjoying the experience as much as the viewers will enjoy them. All of this will make for a spectacular experience for anyone who attends Mfalme Simba. 

Performances will run from November 28th through December 9th. More information about show times and tickets can be obtained at the box office at Maryhaven Performing Arts Center box office in Port Jefferson or by calling 631-474-1585. Give yourself the great gift of live theater performed by very special people in a beautiful small theater setting. What a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season and support Maryhaven in the process. This show gives a whole new meaning to “Hakuna Matata”!