A musical challenge
EAGLE ” The musical “Aida” has it all: glamour and romance, war and intrigue, and a heart-wrenching love triangle. Then there’s the original and often haunting score.
Unless you’re a classical music buff, however, or someone who keeps abreast of the latest sensation Broadway has to offer, you may have never heard of “Aida.” Yet, this critically acclaimed musical is coming to a theater near you ” Eagle Valley High School’s theater.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the EVHS Drama Club will present “Aida,” complete with its music and memorable love story.
“If you’ve never seen it before,” said EVHS music teacher Pat Sheehy, “it’s a very popular musical.”
Director Cathy Strickler said she and co-director Sheehy were first drawn to the play because of its wonderful music. While preparing for Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast” last year, they came upon “Aida.” Although neither of them was familiar with the play, Strickler said, “We both just thought, ‘wow,’ this music is really great.”
“Aida’s” roots are operatic, but in 1999, Elton John and Tim Rice teamed up with Disney to create a new Broadway version of the period story. The Tony Award-winning musical features original music by John with Rice’s lyrics.
Sheehy said that when he heard that the music was by John and Rice ” the same team that wrote Broadway’s hit “The Lion King” ” he knew it would be good.
“It’s fun for the kids to sing some more pop-sounding music,” Sheehy said.
“Aida” opens in modern times at a museum featuring an Egyptian exhibit. Two of the visitors, a man and woman, are drawn to a mysterious burial chamber. As their eyes meet, they are suddenly swept back in time, and into the midst of an ancient story of love and war. Sheehy compares the musical to “West Side Story.”
“It’s got the love story going on between a slave and an Egyptian,” he said.
As war breaks out between ancient Nubia and Egypt, Nubian Princess Aida is captured and forced into slavery. Her captor, Captain Radames, does not know her identity, but is soon mesmerized by the beautiful slave. He spares Aida the fate of the copper mines, and sends her instead as a present to Egyptian Princess Amneris, who is betrothed to Radames. But Radames soon realizes he has fallen in love with Aida, and she with him. Complicating this unfortunate love triangle is Radames’ ambitious father, Chief Minister Zoser, who is plotting to kill Princess Amneris’ father, the Pharaoh, so his son can take the throne. When Aida’s own father, the King Amonasro, is captured, a further wrench is thrown into their love story.
“It definitely relates to a more sophisticated audience,” said senior Dan Gillis, who plays the Pharaoh. “Yet it has fun, upbeat and even funny moments, as well.”
Fifty-five enthusiastic EVHS students will take to the stage this weekend in this ambitious play.
“One of the big things that’s very important to us is to try to get a play with a large cast, so we can cast as many kids as we can,” said Strickler. “And the integrity of a show. We try to keep it as family-oriented as we can.”
Many of the cast members, however, admit to being perplexed when they heard they were staging the musical.
“The last two years, everyone knew the story line and knew a little bit about what went into the play,” said senior Jessica Horst, who plays a Nubian slave and Egyptian handmaiden. “This year, we were all a little confused. It’s a different aspect for us to go through and to try to put it on.”
“The last show we did that was as serious would be ‘Fiddler,'” said Strickler. She adds that she and Sheehy both thought “this might be a nice change.”
Senior Brady Grayson, who plays King Amonasro, admits the musical has been a bit of a challenge, but puts it into perspective.
“Just trying out is a challenge,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage.”
The students have eagerly embraced the play, admirably rising to its more serious overtones and demanding acting and singing parts.
Junior Rudy Olin, who plays love interest Captain Radames, said his character is a bit bi-polar. As his character goes from poisoning the Pharaoh to falling in love, he has to switch emotions so quickly, he said.
Michelle Parmenter admits she’s had to reach deep to get into her character, “Aida,” and “make the audience feel what you feel.” But, she adds, she likes Aida’s attitude. She’s not afraid to stick up for herself.”
Not all the students are in front of the footlights. For the past three years, Chelsey Lueders has loved being “the center of attention” on stage. She is on stage this year, too, but she also acts as stage director.
“I realized I like to direct even more,” Lueders said. “I get to help them (the cast) be the best that they can be.”
Senior Jamie Jay said she likes the freedom she has as stage manager.
“I like not being limited,” she said. “Instead of having someone say, ‘These are your lines, and you have to do this, this and this,’ I like being able to decide what to do.”
Derrick Fowles, also a senior, helped out with the lighting last year for “Beauty and The Beast.” This year, figuring out the stage lighting is all his baby.
“I get to play around with it and see what works,” he said
“Whether they’re out in front in a lead or in the choreography, they just put so much hard work into it,” said Strickler proudly. “We really need everybody. You can’t pull it off without the stage manager, the lightning specialist and the community members.”