AUBURN — From the hushed hall of a modern museum to the colorful pageantry of ancient Egypt, the story of an enslaved princess and her warrior lover emerges in Community Little Theater's production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida.”
In a rock opera incarnation of the classic Verdi opera, the award-winning Broadway musical version makes use of several genres — from reggae to gospel and Motown.
Not surprisingly, given its Walt Disney Theatrical corporation roots, the show’s eclectic musical style and African settings carry echoes of “The Lion King” and its hugely popular songs by Elton John.
“Aida” is an ambitious undertaking with a cast of 45. Director Vincent Ratsavong said this musical version is a love story that opens in the present time, goes back to ancient Egypt and then returns to the present.
The play will be staged Aug. 10-19 with lead roles played by Angela Robitaille (Aida) and Shawn Robitaille (Radames), the talented couple who delivered excellent performances in the principal roles of CLT’s “Jekyll and Hyde” last summer.
Katie St. Pierre portrays Amneris, the Pharoah’s daughter; and Mitchell Clyde Thomas, veteran of many CLT musicals, plays Zoser, the chief minister and father of Radames, who greets his son with news that the Pharoah is dying.
Derrick Lacasse is Mereb, a Nubian slave whose loyalties are torn between his native land and his devotion to his Egyptian masters. Lacasse played John Utterson in “Jekyll and Hyde.”
Megan Guyanes, who played the stepmother in CLT’s “Cinderella” and appeared as Andrea in “Once On This Island,” plays Nehebka.
Phil Vampatella , a CLT regular and builder of many sets including this one, is Pharoah.
CLT newcomer Charles Warren plays Amonasro, king of Nubia and Aida’s father.
Ratsavong, who also choreographs the show, said the swordplay will be especially exciting. The actors, who must display some skill with swords, have been studying with fight masters Leilani Ricardo and Jack Collins of Portland. Ratsavong said the fights with real swords involve precise movement that must be learned for safety and for theatrical effect.
“Each step has a specific position,” Ratsavong said. They practice at least a half-hour before each rehearsal, as they will for each upcoming performance.
“They build up speed from about 50 percent,” Ratsavong said. “When it comes to a live performance, they will be going at about 110 percent.”
Costuming for “Aida” has been a challenge because most of the material in hues of gold, red and black has to be handcrafted. Chiara Ferrante headed the costume committee; she also has an on-stage role.
“Dance of the Robe” is one of the show’s numbers that displays a stunning revelation of a stage-filling robe measuring 24 feet wide and 15 feet deep.
“Aida” is filled with fun and uplifting songs,” Ratsavong said. The song that might be most recognizable is “Written In The Stars,” which Elton John recorded with Leann Rimes several years ago.
Other highlights of the score include “Every Story Is a Love Story,” “The Past Is Another Land,” “Fortune Favors the Brave” and “Elaborate Lives.”
The show, appropriate for all ages, premiered on Broadway on March 23, 2000, running for 1,852 performances. It was nominated for five Tony Awards and won four.