When Peninsula High School drama coach Kara Beloate told me she was producing “Aida,” I was astounded! Being an opera buff, I thought of Giuseppe Verdi’s enormous production, wondering how a high school would ever field the huge cast and colossal stage settings for the extravaganza.
Coach Beloate explained to me that it’s Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” based on Verdi’s opera. It’s tale of forbidden love, loyalty and betrayal, chronicling the love triangle between Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, and Radames, the soldier they both love.
The concept was first presented to Elton John as an animated Disney movie. John, fresh off the success of The Lion King, suggested it be developed into a musical for the stage. “Aida” hit Broadway in March 2000 and ran for 1,852 performances. A favorite of high school and community theaters, it's a triumphant love story, transcending warring nations and bringing a country together. It was the winner of four 2000 Tony Awards.
My camera and I joined Beloate's cast in dress rehearsal. I promise: This is going to be a blockbuster!
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"This musical is special,” said junior Riley Egge, who plays Radames. “It's exciting, funny and heartwrenching at the same time. Team work and unity of our cast and crew shines through as we perform.”
To senior Dane Habernicht, as Amonasro, "Aida is a boy-meets-girl love story with a rocky Egyptian twist. It’s interesting to see how a new concept can captivate people. Putting a show together is a lot more work than one would expect.”
"This is a beautiful production of cultural conflict and true love,” said senior Simone Bogar. "Everyone worked hard for this, and we are excited to share ‘Aida!’”
“For most of us, this is our first play, and as a PHS musical theatre student, I know we'll be fantastic,” said freshman Sarah Swissa. “You should hear some of these girls sing! I have learned that just being a part of the ensemble is one of the most important parts because we hold the show together.”
"This musical not only has amazing music and a great story,” said sophomore Adia Fenn, "our cast and technicians are so inclusive, every type of person is accepted and included.” Fellow ensemble player, senior Kallysta Gomez, said, "Rock ‘n’ roll music and unique Egyptian flair go together to create an exhilarating, timeless love story. Costumes and everything make this spring production a must-see.”
"This play has something for everyone: fun music, great cast, wonderful sets, elaborate dance numbers and an unbelievably fantastic story,” said freshman Megan Burr. "We learned so much about commitment while doing this show I can’t wait to do it again next year.” Classmate Tony Lasley, stage manager, declared, “‘Aida’ is an experience important for both ensemble and audience — seeing and feeling ancient Egypt and hearing all kinds of music.”
To costume and lead technician junior Maddie Goebel, “‘Aida’ is fun but with a serious, relatable story. We’ve worked hard as a team, not as individuals; what one person does affects us all.”
Junior Justin Atkinson, who doubles as Nubian Mereb, said, “Theatre is all about team work. There are no leads because every single person is important.”
“Though I have never seen this show live, my own children have been singing the music since they were toddlers,” Beloate said. “This is a show I had to do, and now is the time. It is such an honor to work with these amazingly talented young people.”
“Aida” premiers at 7 p.m May 7, 8 and 15; at 2 and 7 p.m. May 9; and 3 p.m. May 16 at Peninsula High School's Milton S. Boyd Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students, military and seniors. The box office opens two hours prior to performance times.
I’m getting our tickets early to avoid the rush. You, too?
Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.