Grow with iStage | Young Simba in Disney musical "The Lion King"

June 22nd, 2021

Kevin joined iStage in September 2019. A very gentle boy, Kevin has beautiful voice and performing experience to be proud of, as well as good academic achievements in school.

In this Grow With iStage issue, we have invited Kevin's father to share some stories about Kevin's performing arts experience, and his views of the power of performing arts 

(This interview is conducted in Chinese, and the English version is translated by the editor.)

Q: Did Kevin show his talent in vocal at his young age? When did you discover his talent in vocal?

A: Kevin may have a better voice condition compared to some kids, but I think the word "talent" is too much for him. When he was younger, we had positive comments from our friends and neighbors about his singing. What really impressed me was the time when I took him to watch "The Les Miserables", a musical movie that heavily relies on telling the story by many songs in English language*, which I thought he might find it boring. Kevin however, thoroughly enjoyed the movie, he started to learn those songs and asked me to search for more similar songs. That was the moment when we realized he had a passion towards music.

*Kevin’s first language is Chinese – editor

Q: It is amazing that Kevin had performed more than100 times in Disney’s musical “The Lion King”! Can you please share Kevin's audition experience with us?

A: Kevin was only being a member at the Choir for a year, where Disney team spotted Kevin when they were looking for a boy to be young Simba. With our encouragement and also to follow his dream to be able to perform on Disney stage, Kevin accepted the audition invitation despite that he was not so confident due to the fierce competition and low possibility of being chosen. 

Kevin went through a very rigid audition process with a group of children who could sing and dance very well. The video footages of three finalists were sent to the United States for the final decision. It was a very nice surprise to us that Disney US had finally chosen Kevin to be young Simba. According to Disney, all children were excellent at the audition, it was more about fitting the role rather than singing and dancing skills. Disney spotted Kevin being a risk taker with rather unique voice on stage, which was exactly what they were looking for. 

Q: Did Kevin face any difficulties during the Lion King performances? How did he get through it?

A: The performance normally ended at around 9:30pm, it was quite tiring for an eight-year-old to get back home after 10pm, and went to bed even later after we removed his makeups. What kept him going was his love towards the musical and the stage where he found his perfect “playground”. He even went for a substitute role to replace a boy who got ill upon a last minute phone call.

There were also some emergency moments on the stage which made him feel overwhelmed. He was in tears in one scene when he realized that his costume pants were loosen during a scene, but the show had to carry on. Unlike film, musical is a live performance which requires performer’s ability to immediately adapt in any unexpected situation. In the scene of Mufasa’s death, due to the mechanical problem, the actor failed to land on the stage, Kevin had to improvise based on the situation rather than acting as planned. All those unforeseen challenges made him grow, become more confident and independent!

Q: You were looking for a suitable performing arts academy for a while before Kevin joined iStage, why did you finally choose us? 

A: We would like Kevin to continue receiving trainings in musical theatre after he left “the Lion King” casts. We initially got to know iStage was that the Academy was working on musical projects at Kevin’s school.

It was the time when we were invited to watch iStage’s production "Shine", we realized iStage had both passionate academic team and students who truly love musical! I was particularly touched by Ava S with her beautiful vocal performance at such a young age! Now both of our kids are at iStage, and we would recommend iStage to anyone without any hesitation!

Q: What are the most important criteria when you choose enrichment programs and organizations for your children?

A: I am more into life time hobby cultivation than exam grading achievement. I would also focus on the core values of an organization to see if it truly focuses on education and is run with passion.

Over the years, iStage has proved to be a loving and caring organization which really focuses on providing high quality performing arts education, cares about the improvement of each student, it never lets us down. The core values that iStage adapts were enlarged during the beginning of the pandemic, iStage offered high standard online program with no compromise which led to a very high quality final performance – an amazing performance after 4 months hard work online teaching and learning. I particularly remember that Ms. Karina used LEGO figures for staging to help the students understand.

Q: Do you think learning performing arts can benefit our children both physically and mentally? In which ways?

A: Yes! Learning performing arts can definitely benefit our children. Performing arts enhance soft skills such as teamwork, children become more sensible and better team players! Determination is another soft skill that performing arts bring, every role is important in a production, children should be committed to whatever role they have to make the show happen. It also fosters life time learning habit.

Q: How did Kevin manage to balance his academic requirements and musical theatre learning?

A: I must say that it is very hard to balance. It more depends on parents’ expectations and the goals that the child wants to achieve. Musical is what Kevin loves to do, he has the driven to work harder both in school and at iStage to follow his passion.

Q: Has Kevin ever been disappointed for not getting his favorite role? As a parent, how do you deal with your child’s negative emotions?

A: I know the scripts for every single production at iStage are adapted to make sure that each student has adequate parts to shine on the stage, parts allocation is relatively equal. Kevin does not care much about him getting a leading role or just a small role. I do not think the children really care much about the role, they just love being on the stage and enjoy the moments, maybe it is parents who are more likely to care about what roles their children are getting.

Q: Could you recommend some musicals for the parents and children to enjoy and have quality time together? 

A: "The Lion King" is obviously a very family friendly musical. Other musical films such as "The Greatest Showman" which has many beautiful songs, "Les Miserables" is also an excellent one; "Matilda” tells a story mainly from the perspective of young children.

Q: Thank you very much for accepting the interview. We have a final usual question: do you like iStage?

A: My children love iStage! Kevin’s sister used to accompany him at his iStage class time, and now she has become an iStage student too! As for me, I love watching the children performing, and yes, I do like iStage and I would like to say thank you to iStage!