NORWICH – By all accounts, last year’s “Phantom of the Opera” would be a hard act to follow for the kids in the Norwich high school musical club. And if their enthusiasm for “Aida” is any indication, this weekend’s string of performances will have audiences asking, “Phantom who?”
“We had such a great show last year, but this year is even better,” claims NHS senior Joshua Mahannah, who plays Nubian slave Mereb in this weekend’s show. “It’s got a great cast, great lighting, great sets ... just a lot of incredible talent.”
Mahannah’s praise for the show is shared by Director Mark Sands, who said he fell in love with the Disney musical when he saw it on Broadway a decade ago. “I was just waiting for it to be released for school performances,” the longtime NHS director said. Which it was, two years ago. But by then, Sands had already decided to stage “Les Miserables.” He came close to choosing it again last year, but went with “Phantom” instead. “It’s funny the way things work out, because the leads for ‘Les Mis’ and ‘Phantom’ were perfect for those shows. As I was watching Wednesday evening’s dress rehearsal, it hit me that once again, the leads for ‘Aida’ are perfectly suited for their roles.”
In a nutshell, the musical is set in ancient Egypt, where a warrior captain, Radames (Dillan Smith), has just returned from a scouting expedition, having captured a number of Nubian slaves – among them the willful and beautiful Aida (Breanna Guiffre). Radames is betrothed to the Pharaoh’s selfish daughter, Amneris (Mallory Norton), but of course falls in forbidden love with Aida instead.