Neighbors dual language class to present Lion King Jr.

By Amanda Redman

Hakuna matata, everyone knows it means “no worries for the rest of your days.”
The Swahili term made famous by Disney’s “Lion King” illustrates the adage that music is a universal language.
O.J. Neighbours Elementary School dual language immersion students are taking that idea on stage this month in a bilingual presentation of “Lion King Jr.”
Rafael Camaras, third grade dual language immersion (DLI) teacher, his wife Rebeca Zurita, Spanish Interventionist for Wabash City Schools, and Maria Angeles Iniesta, DLI kindergarten teacher, have been working on the production for four months.
“It will be a show where the songs will be sung in Spanish and the dialogues will be in English,” Camaras said during an interview at a rehearsal Thursday at Wabash Middle School Auditorium where the production will open March 24.
“Everybody knows the ‘Lion King’ songs,” Camaras said. “If we had done the dialogue in Spanish, no one would know what we were saying.”
All students kindergarten through fifth grade are in the play and all seemed to know their parts, including all the lyrics, during the rehearsal.
Amanda Martinez Ellet, preschool teacher, kept watch over the group of approximately 50 students waiting for their cues off stage.
“I think it’s going to be spectacular,” Ellet said. “Rafael has done an amazing job.”
Camaras is experienced in theater and has been involved in several productions with Wabash Area Community Theater. He also enjoys playing piano and guitar.
“I love music,” Camaras said. “The idea was they are learning Spanish through music.”
The Disney musical features the same familiar songs as the full-length “Lion King” film, but Camaras was granted permission from Disney to translate the tunes to Spanish.
“We are pioneers in the United States,” Camaras said. “No other school has made a Disney musical in a bilingual way.”
Camaras and Zurita, along with their children, Alvaro and Martin, came to Wabash from Spain in the 2021-2022 school year to teach Spanish abroad while immersing themselves in American culture.
    “For our kids it’s amazing. They are learning English – better than me,” Camaras said laughing. “They are fluent.”
Expenses for the play have been afforded with donations from companies, businesses and families, Camaras said.
“Without their help it would have been impossible to do it,” Camaras said.
Parent volunteers have been another essential component building sets, making costumes and doing make-up.
“It’s a huge project so without their help it would be impossible,” Camaras said. “We are really thankful for the support.”
Performances will be at 7 p.m. Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, in Wabash Middle School Auditorium. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students. There is no charge for small children.



Posted on 2023 Mar 14