HOUSTON – Jan. 15, 2020 – When Spring High School’s Lion Players Theatre Company brings the musical “Aida” to the stage for four performances starting Thursday night, it will fulfill a dream of Director of Theatre Marilyn Ocker, one she had since first seeing the show during an International Thespian Festival performance eight years ago.
“It was the first performance of ‘Aida’ by a high school,” Ocker recalled, “and when I saw it, I was enraptured – the costumes, the movement, the music. And then of course I’m a big old softie romantic, and this love story is amazing.”
Spring High School’s performances of the play – with its Tony Award-winning score by Elton John and Tim Rice and a story based on the classic Verdi opera – are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 16, 17, 18 and 21 in the school’s performing arts center.
Together with more than 70 cast and crew members on stage and behind the scenes, the immersive set and colorful costumes set the scene for ancient Egypt, where the play takes place following the capture of the Nubian princess Aida by a raiding party. Brought back to Egypt in chains by the Egyptian captain, Radames, Aida finds herself servant to the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris. Radames is betrothed to Amneris, but is entranced by Aida’s noble bearing, beauty and fiery spirit. The ensuing drama envelops all three, putting them in danger together with their families, their futures, and their kingdoms.
Despite its ancient setting, the play’s decidedly modern themes resonated with the young actors. In the title role of Aida, senior Makaila Heath – who earned a Tommy Tune Award nomination for her part in last year’s “Once Upon a Mattress” – said she saw an opportunity to play a character who, even in slavery and servitude, refuses to give in to despair or give up hope.
“Many people would expect her to be meek, or scared of the captain, or scared of Amneris, but she continuously proves that she’s not afraid,” Heath said. “I like that she’s a strong woman, and she’s strong no matter what.”
For senior Emmanuel Johnson, who plays Radames, the toughest part about preparing his role was building the complicated relationships his character has with all those around him – including Aida and Amneris, played by senior Deborah Edquist.
“That’s what my character struggles with,” Johnson said, “his mind and his heart not being on the same page, and the audience will definitely see that.”
For Edquist, an All-State musician in choral performance, the show forced her outside her comfort zone into new musical territory, but she said she wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
“It truly is an emotional ride, so be prepared,” Edquist said of the show. “Maybe you want to bring tissues, but it is a very good love story. You can see the romance, and you’ll feel the love.”
Tickets for “Aida” are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 for children under 12, and can be purchased online at www.lionplayerstheatrecompany.com or at the door prior to each evening’s performance.