By Tiffany Chea ’17, Sean Forde ’17 and Sumiya Kibria ’17
Hours of grueling practice paid off as a tragic story about forbidden lovers moved from the Broadway stage to the Midwood auditorium. On Thursday, May 5 and Friday, May 6, students recreated the Walt Disney Theatrical production Aida, with direction from Ms. Liz Bommarito.
Aida was originally written as an opera by Giuseppe Verdi and was created into an award winning musical by Tim Rice and Elton John. The story revolved around Aida, a Nubian princess played by Christina Charles ’16, and Radames, an Egyptian captain, played by Youssef Abourageh’19. The two star-crossed lovers met under unfortunate circumstances as Aida was captured by Egyptian soldiers and disguised herself as a slave. Radames was intrigued by Aida’s courageous attitude, thus sparing her from working in the copper mine. He gifted Aida as a slave to work for his fiancé, Princess Amneris, played by Josephine Mammoliti ’18.
Amneris is upset at Radames
The development of Aida and Radames’ love is expressed throughout the performance with a multitude of catchy songs and action packed scenes. Their affair puts strain on Radames’ relationship with his betrothed and emotional conflict ensues. Aida and Radames debate how they should handle their relationship, while Amneris wonders why her soon-to-be husband is growing ever more distant.Actors of the play worked long hours in order to perfect their performances. Practices began around the beginning of March, nearing the time that SING! performances were wrapping up.
“Practices in the last month have been slightly erratic, but we would usually practice four days a week for approximately three to five hours per day,” said Mohammad Naqvi ’16, who took the role Zoser, Radames’ father.
The play includes acting, dancing and singing with Aida company members ranging from freshmen to seniors. Company members include lead actors/actresses, stage crew, ensembles, props, makeup artists, dancers, costume and wardrobe designer, soldiers, Nubians, Nehebkas, playbill, stage manager, lights, pharaoh, death, traitor, and merchant.
“It’s always an amazing experience to be a part of a theater production. This instance was my first school play and it was incredibly different than being in SING,” said Naqvi ’16. “It was my first time singing in front of, well anyone, and in the end it was a surreal, ephemeral experience that I will miss.”
Naqvi ’16 was given the role of Zoser in the middle of April and had less than a month to solidify his role. “I never auditioned for the role or for the play in general, when the original auditions took place. Rather, I was randomly dragged in front of Ms. B by my friend Syed Hossain ’16, who played the pharaoh, and was forced to give her an audition right then and there,” he continued.
Due to extra-curricular activities such as jobs, volunteering, sports teams, after school clubs and time management, rehearsals were never a success. There were always a few people missing.
“In the four and a half weeks we spent practicing, we were never all together because there was always something that kept a few students from attending the rehearsals,” said Ms. Bommarito, the director and producer of the play. But, this didn’t stop the students from working hard to pull off a great show, she added.
Shaian Sharmin ’17, who played an exotic dancer, said, “It was interesting to have a different perspective on a show. Usually I am in the audience so it was really fun to be on the stage for a change.”
The cast of the play were not the only ones to contribute to the performance. Students who are currently in Ms. Bommarito’s drama class took part in creating backdrops and designing the sets for the play. For the entire month of April, these students painted unique backdrops that helped audience members fully comprehend what was occurring throughout the production. Backdrops included a map of Egypt that aided viewers in understanding where Nubia is located. Other backdrops included painted, cartoon-like versions of the Great Sphinx of Giza and pyramids. At the front of the stage sat ornaments which emphasized Egyptian culture.
“The stage design and setting was beautiful,” said Tanya Silenko ’17. “It pulled the play together in my opinion.”
According to Selen Ergin ’16, “As a stage manager I had to make sure everything was in order, especially backstage. I kept everyone updated on the Aida Facebook page by passing important information to the Aida company members.”
Amongst the many appealing visual features were the costumes of the actors.
“Over seventy costumes were designed by Wioletta Bodziony ’16. Fashion design has always been a talent of hers and one of her favorite hobbies. Through this play she got an opportunity to proudly display her innovative ideas through designing clothes,” said Ms. Bommarito. “The stitchings were done by me,” she resumed. “All of regents week in January and any free time I got, I spent stitching these costumes. It really paid off.”
All the hard work and stressful hours of practice were worth the effort.
“We all worked hard to put on a successful production. It was a rough road where we all had our ups and downs. But in the end, we maintained our sanity and still went on with the show,” said Ergin ’16
Jessica Charles ’17 who attended the play mentioned, “I thought the performance was amazing. I was captivated from beginning to end because the cast was so dedicated in their acting.
The play included all the songs from the soundtrack in the original Broadway production. The songs helped set the stage for the ongoing events, and added to the emotion that was being portrayed.
Though all the songs from the original Broadway show were kept unchanged, the script was improvised for Midwood’s performance. For example, Dr. Ernest Pysher played the character Death in the production when Death was not a personality in the original show at all. The script was altered to add comedic relief to the somber plot of the show. A scene of Grease was included as a cheerleader emerged from the side of the stage and was quickly dragged off by a member of stage crew, apologizing to the audience by saying, “Oops, wrong play!”
Many audience members who attended the show raved about the performance and their positive experience.
“The performance overall was great and I really appreciated the effort of all the cast and crew who put the play together,” said Cherene Tse ’17.
Robert Kosinski ’16 was a student who thoroughly enjoyed the production.
“The play was really entertaining, and the acting helped deliver it even further,” said Kosinski.
Although the cast and crew can agree that putting together the play was a difficult task, there were mixed emotions throughout.
“This is the 12th play I’ve ever performed in and I’ve got to say that it was one of the most fun. I got to meet a lot of people that I wouldn’t have, had I not been a part of this play,” said Jeraya Kelly ‘17, who played a Nubian in the performance.. “Everyone worked hard to make costumes, props, sets, learn their lines, songs, and choreography. I feel like that’s what made it a good experience, the fact that everyone involved put in a lot of effort.”