Mahadevi Birla World Academy joins the elite batch of enlightened schools who understand the educational value of a full-scale production. Their Lion King not only charmed packed halls but attained very high artistic standards comparable to musicals by professional companies (for example, those brought by the National School of Drama Repertory this week). To marshal the huge student population involved also demands elaborate directorial skills, which Dana Roy exhibited in her first major responsibility, backed by the Lai Roy family that boasts of specialists in every theatrical department.

As a text, Lion King has its pros and cons, which stay unaltered. The former include consciousness of variegated African cultures by actually using six languages, and sensitivity to wildlife in “the circle of life”. But among the latter, controversies that dogged Disney persist: why does it end with celebration over another male cub’s birth – why not a female, when we know that lionesses do the “lion’s share” of work? Why do hyenas get a bad name – just because they look “ugly” to human eyes?

However, I have nothing but praise for the actors, dancers and singers. The whole cast should feel proud. Julie Taymor’s inventive animal masks and costumes from Broadway were gorgeously reconverted, though I should point out two zoological errors, since everything else demonstrated research: Scar should have had a lion’s mane, and Zazu a hornbill’s plumage, not bright red. Technically, Subhagata Singha’s singlehanded, multitracked score drowned out the live solo singing in the sound mix.

La Martiniere for Girls staged Alan Menken’s 1994 musical of A Christmas Carol open-air on its grounds – a wonderful idea, with simultaneous sets upon a platform, 30-strong choir to the right, cemetery to the left and Scrooge’s house above in the annexe balcony, topped by a concluding snow flurry from the roof! Exclusively from the middle school, the young performers did very well, their achievement more creditable since they had no outside supervision, a collaborative effort entirely in-house.

With over a hundred girls participating, each school did a signal service in inculcating art and organization to its wards.

(From The Telegraph, 24 December 2016)