PORTSMOUTH — As the Portsmouth High School (PHS) Music Department took a bow on of the stage at the end of the last dress Rehearsal of the Broadway play, ‘Aida,’ Thursday evening, the was no doubt —— Its show time!
Aida is Disney play first performed on Broadway in 2000. Aida will serve as the Spring Musical, is the school edition. It was written by Elton John and Tim Rice. The show is set to run at PHS April 1 at 7:30 p.m., April 2, at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 2:30 p.m.
Emily Smith, PHS Show Choir director and music teacher, said the preparation for Aida has been a process, but the PHS music department is more than ready for this weekend’s production.
“This week has been a whirlwind of emotions. The kids have gone from being nervous, to being confident in what they are doing,” Smith said. “It has really been an exciting ride to see everything come together with costumes make up, lights, scenery, full orchestra. It has just been really exciting to see the transformation all week long until tonight, with the dress rehearsal. It is really going to be a great show this weekend, and would love to see as many people as possible in our community come out to support these students for all of their hard work.
To behold the PHS cast of Aida in action is definitely something amazing to behold. From the eye-catching costumes, melodious voices of the singers, to the dancing. The choreographer is a PHS alum, Richelle Cartee who attended Wright State, and earned a degree in dance, according to Smith.
“She (Cartee) has been choreographing for us for the past two years, and then she choreographed for me at the Elementary School,” Smith said.
The main characters Radames and Aida end up falling in love with one another.
“Captain Radames is actually the one who captures Aida and her friends who are on the banks of the Nile to become their slaves in Egypt, and it ends up that they fell in love,” Smith said. “The problems is Radames is the captain who’s been betrothed to Princess Amneris the Pharoah’s daughter. So they end up falling in love, even those he is betrothed and to Amneris, and its basically this love triangle that’s kind of that kind of comes out before your eyes and its just a really great story.”
She described, “the right kind of kids” as students with voices that are compatible with the music of the play, as well as African American.
“The right kids means that you have to have the kids who can sing the music first of all, because this music is very difficult,” Smith said. “It’s not your typical Broadway music where its just really easy and you can sing it. This is some hard music, so that was the first thing, I knew I had the kids. The second thing to cast this show is the right ethnicity of kids. The lead role is an African American female, and I knew that I had several that I could choose from who could fill the shoes of this role, and I just thought this is silly of me not to do it. I knew that I had the guys that could pull off the roles and it was just kind of a match made in heaven. I just had the kids to do it, and it was time. “
This production will be the first time in PHS history that an African American student to perform a leading role, according to Smith, and is something Smith said is way over due.
“To my knowledge this is the first musical that Portsmouth has ever done, maybe even in our area that we have done a musical that was written specifically for people other than Caucasians to have the lead, and think that is so important, not only to our area, but to our kids,” Smith said.”Its 2016, and its time. It has been time for a long time to do something that pushes the boundaries of interracial relationships of historical things that happened, and I think it is so cool to be able to do this.
Additionally, Smith said this will also be the first time that Aida is performed in any of the other local schools.
“This is a show that has never been done in our area, ever to my knowledge, besides that touring company,” Smith said. “I just waited until I knew I had the right kids to do it, and low and behold it was my second year and I knew last year at the end of the school year, next year is the time to do my dream show, and this is like my dream show. So I think how cool is it. Its my second year and then I get to do my dream show. I tell the kids all the time, they are making my dream a reality, and it is just a really great show.”
The estimated cost for the PHS production of Aida is between $10,000-$12,000, according to Smith.
Semajah Parker, a junior at PHS who will play the lead character of Aida, said she is embarking upon new experience with a dramatic role as opposed to one of comedy.
“This is my first lead role, and it is a really big step for me. Last year I had a supporting role as a secretary in ‘The Pajama Game,’ and this year going from a character that is humorous, to a serious, more dramatic character the hardest part for me is Aida is a character who is very strong-willed, and she’s very passionate about her people, and it’s going to be a little bit tough for me to bring that side of me out more. To be more serious, instead of relying on the humor to make my character I have to rely on the emotion and the passion.”
Parker said her anxieties about playing the part have been silenced through support and encouragement from others.
“At the beginning I was kind of nervous, and then I talked to a few people about it, and they have helped me to find the confidence for this role in helping me to build the confidence and I think that I have a great cast behind me, and great people who are helping me with this, so I don’t really worry as much anymore,” Parker said. “
Being the first African American to play a lead role in Portsmouth City Schools is considered by Parker to be an honor.
“I am honored to be the first African American student to gain a lead role,” Parker said. “When Miss Smith told me I was really shocked, and I feel like its a big step for African Americans, because they’ve had so much trouble getting to places where we are now,” Parker said. “We have an African American President, we have so many good advancements going for us, and I think hat this is just another thing for our local area for people to look up and say that this could happen and that its not because of my race, or my gender. I feel like this is just step forward to making more advancements. I believe it is a step closer. We are looking forward to everyone that will come out and support us on April 1st, second and third.”
Trent Rodbell, a senior at PHS will portray the lead character Radames, the eventual love interest of Aida, said he is really excited about participating in the production.
“I am pretty excited about it, mainly because we’ve never done anything like this because its a lot more serious and normally we do more of the joking, funny musicals and this one is actually like a drama,” Rodbell said. “To do this character is going to be different from other musicals that I have done in the past. So, it is pretty exciting to try something else, and very different is very cool.”
Being that the play is serious in nature, makes it more of a challenge, Rodbell said.
“I think the hardest part is that there are some really emotional sad parts, and to be able to bring that out of yourself can be pretty tough at times,” Rodbell said. “When I was a sophomore I was in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and I played Lumiere and last year in the Pajama Game I was one of the leads and I played Sid Sorokin. As it pertains to the character Radames in Aida, Rodbell said he is really not a bad guy.”
Reserved tickets for Aida are $20 each, general admission for adults is $10, and senior citizens and students are $5. Reserved seats may be purchased by calling Smith’s office ahead at 740-355-4464.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.