Lights up on a modern history museum, in an exhibit about ancient Egypt. Suddenly the scene changes and a statue steps out of her case and begins to share the story of the great and devout Egypt conquering Nubia and capturing its slaves. This is the opening scene to the St. Thomas More Academy Theater Department’s production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida.
One of these Nubian slaves, Aida (Paulette Perez), revolts against her captor and receives the attention of Radames (Aldani Herrera). Amneris (Anna DeCarlucci), Pharaoh’s daughter has been betrothed to Radames, but after his attention to Aida, a love triangle begins. Aida turns out to be a Nubian princess is torn between saving her people and being in love with Radames.
A lot of other familiar faces from STMA Theater have returned to the stage for this show. Michael Sulzen (Benny, In the Heights) plays Zoser, Dallas Eason (Mr. Rosario, In the Heights and Garry, Noises Off!) is Pharaoh, and Kateri Manville (Nina, In the Heights and Dotty, Noises Off!) is Nehebka.
By far, the best number of the show is in the first act. DeCarlucci belts out Strongest Suit, with her Handmaiden backup singers in this very soulful song. Midway through this song, and onstage behind a curtain, DeCarlucci pulls off one of the fastest costume changes that STMA Theater has ever done. As if that was not complicated enough, all of her Handmaidens go through a similar costume changes.
All these brilliant costumes are made by Liliane Watkins and Paola Tavernier (Mrs. Perez), and they have done it yet again with some of the best, most authentic, vibrant costumes for the Theater Department. The show has many offstage quick changes, and the actors pull this off without flaw.
The set for Aida is a little minimalist for STMA Theater, but the singing and costumes make up for it. It pales in comparison to last year’s In the Heights and Tarzan, the year before that.
Elton John’s musicals have always had pop flare to them, and Aida is no exception. Jeffery Rice has put together the Pit Orchestra again featuring a number of the same musicians from last year’s hit, In the Heights. David Aduddell returns to play bass, Lori Anderson on keyboard, Marc Davis on guitar, and Vince Moss on drums; and they have brought Eton John’s music out to the fullest extent.
I also want to take the time to give a shout-out to Kaleigh Benesch, Maria Mutka, and Thérèse Watkins. These three managed everything from publicity, to house crew, to selling tickets, to the program, all of which have been completed flawlessly.
The show is funny, meaningful, and most of all entertaining. From pop to reggae to soul to rock, this Elton John and Tim Rice musical is surely not going to disappoint. Performances are March 30th-April 1st and April 6th-8th, all at 7PM at the Lower Theater at St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh. Tickets are $6 for Students and $8 for Adults. You can reserve your tickets by calling (919) 878-7640 or by visiting the Theater Department website, stmacademytheater.wix.com/info.