Dancer roars onto stage in “The Lion King”


Jodi Johnson has studied ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical dance and musical theatre. This weekend she will use those talents to help tell one of the most beloved modern tales: “The Lion King.”

The Baldwin County Virtual School freshman has been studying dance for seven years, the last four with Dance Arts South in Daphne. She’s been singing since she was 6-years-old.

She’s also spent time tumbling and flipping in a gymnastics program.

Now, she’s set to play Sarabi in Eastern Shore Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Lion King Jr.” which opens this weekend in Fairhope.

“When I auditioned I honestly just wanted to be a dancer,” Johnson said. “Then when I got a minor lead role I was super excited.”

Johnson will perform both as the regal lioness, Sarabi, wife of villain Mufasa, and as a company dancer in the production.

“The Lion King Jr.” is directed by Erin Langley and choreographed by Matthew Kiel.

Langley said over 100 kids from Baldwin County and as far away as Selma auditioned for the show. Many have trained at dance studios from across the area to create a spectacle that is unlike any other production of the show.

“He really did an amazing job putting that together,” Langley said.

Johnson said she hopes “The Lion King” isn’t her last spin on stage. She already plans to audition for Eastern Shore Repertory Theatre’s spring production of “Beauty and the Beast” and will be traveling with the company to California as part of the theatre’s elite travel team to perform “The Lion King Jr.”

Johnson said performing has given her a solid background.

“I would like for performing to be part of my future, but I’d also like to become a doctor,” she said. “I’m not sure which way I’ll go. I might go to college to become a doctor and minor in performing arts, because it’s very fun to me. I’ve always just loved the whole aspect of performing for other people and making them happy.”

At Dance Arts South, where Johnson has danced for four years, many dancers there are participating in theatre productions across the county. Chloe Theriot, another Dance Arts South student, will perform the role of Rafiki in “The Lion King Jr.”

In the upcoming production of “Annie,” by Center Stage Performance, local dancers will fill the roles of dancing orphans. Dance Arts South students included in that production are Michelle Bossard, Kate McDonald, Vivian Marlow, Avery Kane, Bennett Middleton, Blakeney Wells , Ann Bradley Wells, Audrianna Gambino, Ella Scism and Abigail Robinson. Vivian Marlow is also performing as a lost boy in Bay Area Performing Arts’ upcoming production of “Peter Pan Jr.”

“When students study dance they are preparing to be part of many types of productions,” said Jamie Leatherbury, owner of Dance Arts South. “They can tell the story of any character on stage simply through movement.”

Dance Arts South is opening a new 5,000 square foot studio in spring, 2002 on County Road 32.