by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The annual musical by Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DASOTA) was held last weekend on the school campus in Southside Jacksonville. This yearly collaboration by Theatre, Vocal, Dance and Instrumental departments is a highlight of the Jacksonville theatre season; much anticipated by the students, their parents, and by savvy theatregoers.
DASOTA always puts its heart, soul, and resources into presenting a first rate production of professional quality in every aspect. The dual critics, who saw the road show production several years ago, can say without any reservation that the DASOTA version was more exciting, especially from a talent standpoint.
This Disney produced pop-musical, based on Verdi’s opera of the same name, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, was not a favorite with New York critics when it opened on Broadway in 2000. But the public certainly liked it, as it ran for over 1,800 performances.
The opening song informs us that Aida is the story of a love that flourished in a time of hate. It is sung by Amneris (Rebekah Peltz), the daughter of Egypt’s Pharaoh (Michael Mayo), who is betrothed to the warrior Radames (Nick Sacks). Radames, who has been engaged for nine years, would rather go to battle than go through with this marriage. It was arranged by his scheming father, Zoser (Christopher Robertson), who is secretly poisoning the pharaoh. Radames has arrived from the neighboring country of Nubia with a shipload of slaves, that includes Aida (Courtnee Carter) a beautiful and outspoken princess. Radames gives Aida to Amneris as a handmaiden, but soon becomes enamored with her, and they fall in love, a romance that is very much forbidden. If you are familiar with opera, you can guess that tragedy will follow.
The score was loaded with ballads, which not only advanced the plot but offered the opportunity for some outstanding duets and solos by the principals, augmented by some terrific ensemble vocalization as well. One of our favorites, was “How I Know you” sung by the chief slave, Mereb (Jordan Bilbrew). Rebekah Peltz has a strong, lovely voice as she demonstrated in the crowd-pleasing “My Strongest Suit”. Both the duets and solos by the leading characters Nick Sacks as Radames and Courtnee Carter as Aida, were superb, and show stoppers.
Scenic Designer Nolan O’Dell and Lighting Designer Pamela Jackson created a brilliantly colored set that was masterfully lit. They built large fluted columns on both sides of the stage and used a revolving raked centerpiece, initially a museum interior, that changes into other settings, including a boat on the Nile, a bathhouse in the quarters of Amneris, and the Pharaoh’s throne room.
The choreography by Ellie Potts Barrett was sensational and made use of the revolving raked stage. Erika Murphy was the Dance Captain.
Costume Designer Sally Pettegrew’s eye-popping creations were a visual feast, with Costume Mistresses Amanda Harvey and Erika Mady lending a hand to coordinate the enormous task of keeping track of the numerous changes.
The actors were miked, so that all of the audience, even those in the far reaches of the auditorium, could hear the full range of those marvelous voices, this thanks to sound designer Rick Painter.
Artistic Director, Dr. Lee Berger, along with Assistant Directors and Stage Managers Tre’Ellis Scott, Sarah Gray, and Somer Rodriquez, worked with 39 cast members and 40 crew members to produce a truly remarkable production of a very entertaining musical that enthralled the audience who rewarded the show a standing ovation.
The cast included; Tanisha Moore as Nehebka, Jameek Barnes as Amonasro. Soldiers/Ministers; Joshua Yarbrough, Wil Bethmann, Harrison Breault, Bradley Akers, Devin Reardon, Caylor Ventro, Harrison Newton. The Nubian Women; Nicole Hamm, Shya Lorance-Ashby, Déja Seigler, Essence Williams, Markeis Simon, Alex Aleman. The Palace Women; Adrienne Feinglass, Kelsie Saison, Ashley Turner, Natalie Comeaux, Kellie Wyatt, Jessica Jacobson, Olivia Chernyshew, Nichole Ignacio, Ella Nauta, Kylie Elliot. The Nubian Men; David Emanuel, JuCoby Johnson, J’royce Walton, Joshua Abbot, Frank Humphrey, Alex Edwards, Willie Beaton and Daiquan Flagler.
This Broadway musical was an excellent choice for DASOTA, with a script and songs to please a young audience and one that showcased the depth of talent at this school of the arts. If you missed it, make a New Year’s resolution to see the 2011 production.
AIDA theatre review
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM