Suffolk high school production of ‘The Lion King’ canceled after copyright concerns rise

Posted at 3:45 PM, Apr 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-29 13:05:39-04

SUFFOLK, Va. - Students at a Suffolk high school will no longer be performing their most recent project for the public.

A Suffolk school official said because of "unforeseen circumstances" the Nansemond River High School's production of The Lion King has been canceled.

Students did put on two performances for elementary school students and three night performances for the community.

A school or organization should know who manages the copyrights to put on any show from a Broadway musical, according to Music Theatre International, who manages The Lion King.

They said no auditions or advertising of the show can happen until royalties have been paid for the copyrights.

The programming theatre director at Old Dominion University, Chris Hanna, told News 3 that it can be tricky when dealing with Disney Productions.

"One of the first things they are going to do when they think about whether or not to assign your rights is they're going to decide is that going to compete with a professional show going on in the area," said Hanna.

The school division was not aware copyright permissions needed to perform the play were not secured until April 25. They are investigating the situation.

Suffolk Public Schools is investigating and the official said they are not sure at this time if the issue is with Disney directly or an agency that provides copyright productions for many organizations.

On Friday, News 3 spoke to some students who were part of the show.

"I really enjoyed the show; it was really fun," said student Jada Pierce, an actress in the play. "So now it's like, well, we can't do it anymore."

They said students are disappointed because they put a lot of time into rehearsing.

"Kids from all different backgrounds [are] in school, so it was a unified force for everybody to come together as one," said Jasmine Pierce, another student and actress.

Music Theatre International said  the school can continue with the production once a thorough investigation has been completed.