Area youth get ready for arrival of All-City Musical ‘Aida’ – News – Record-Courier


AKRON — More than 40 high school students from 20 different schools will bring the story of “Aida” to life on the Akron Civic Theatre stage June 21and 22 in this year’s All-City Musical.

“Aida,” with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, is based on the Verdi opera of the same name. The plot centers on Radames, the captain of the Egyptian guard, and Aida, one of the recently captured Nubian slaves, who also happens to be a princess. The two fall in love, despite Radames being betrothed to Amneris, the daughter of the Pharoah. Zoser, the chief minister and the father of Radames, is eager to see his son on the throne and will do anything to make that happen. Radames and Aida are torn between their love and their responsibility to their people.

“I like it’s a modern take of the original opera,” said Riley Higley, who lives in Cuyahoga Falls and attends Copley High School. She is one of the members of the ensemble. “I’m a fan of the opera. I also like how Elton John wrote the music.”

Jahlil Underwood, who plays Mereb, Radames’ faithful servant, said he liked “how African Americans are represented through the songs, the dances and the people.” Underwood is a student at Woodridge High School.

Kaitlyn Phillips, a student at Cuyahoga Falls High School and a member of the ensemble, said she “like(s) that there’s a strong female lead character.”

Olivia May, a student at Walsh Jesuit High School, said she liked the story.

“I think it’s interesting,” May said. “I like the lead characters. It’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet, but it’s better. I like the music.”

Jonah Daniel, who attends St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and lives in Stow, agreed that the story was interesting.

“It’s a blossoming love story,” said Daniel, a member of the ensemble.

Patrick Sullivan, who plays Zoser, said this was a different type of role for him.

“Normally, I play the hero, but in this show I get to play the main antagonist,” said Sullivan, who lives in Stow and attends Archbishop Hoban High School. “That has been a lot of fun. It’s been a challenge becauseI’m generally a pretty chill person, but it’s been fun picking up an antagonist role.”

Connor Barack, a member of the ensemble, said one challenge for him was “singing and dancing at the same time.”

“I’m not used to that,” said Barack, a student at Kent Roosevelt High School.

Ty Booth, who attends Cuyahoga Falls High School, said the type of dancing was a challenge.

“A lot of the choreography, at least what I do, it has to be militarized,” said Booth, who is a member of the ensemble and plays a soldier in several scenes. “The dance is crisp, clean, with sharp corners. I’m not used to that type of movement.”

Christina Black, a student at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, said this was her first time in a musical.

“I’m a dancer, and I know how to sing,” said Black, a member of the ensemble. “But I’ve never had to put it together before.”

Sullivan said he hoped that people would come out to see “the immense amount of talent Northeast Ohio has in its student performers.”

“We need to support the arts programs more,” Sullivan said. “There’s a strong female lead, a woman of color. I think it’s really cool, it coincides with the women’s movement, the Me Too.”

Daniel said he hoped this musical will draw more area youth into the arts.

“The only reason why I am here is because I saw ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ last year, and I really wish I could have done that,” he said.

Valerie Renner, associate director of programming for the theatre, said the cast is “a great bunch of kids.”

“You have the opportunity to bring a story to life,” she told the cast before an evening rehearsal.

Renner said “Aida” was “a social type of play.”

“You need to be who you are, and love the ones you are with,” Renner said of the theme of the play.

Connor Bogart O’Brien, the director, said that the musical “is one of my absolute favorite shows.”

“It has some of the best music I’ve ever heard,” O’Brien said. “It’s an exceptionally large cast. We have 45 kids on stage.”

O’Brien said that this production has come together through a collaboration of many organizations, including area dance studios, gospel choirs and Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop. This year’s cast has an especially large number of trained dancers, he added.

“We have professional-level dancers,” O’Brien said, adding that they’ve added choreography to scenes to best utilize the talent of the cast.

Brian Murphy, choreographer, said that this production had more dancers “than we have had in the past.”

“And we use them,” O’Brien said. “You would not usually see these dance moves in a high school production.”

Sharon Dobbins Alberson, the music director and a Cuyahoga Falls resident, said she also was music director for Rubber City Theatre’s staging of “Aida” in 2016. She said going from a production in a small, intimate space to the larger space at the Akron Civic Theatre has been a change.

“It’s a beautiful experience for me,” Alberson said. “Both really stand out for something different.”

Alberson commended the students who make up the orchestra.

“One of the greatest thing I’m experiencing here is the collaboration,” she said. “The high school students in the orchestra are young and extremely talented.”

Show information

“AIda” will have performances June 21 at 7 p.m., and June 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $25 and $20 for reserved, and $10 for general admission.

Tickets are available at the Akron Civic Theatre box office, by calling 330-253-2488, or online at

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423,, or @AprilKHelms_RPC


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