Updating a classic musical | SteamboatToday.com

Updating a classic musical

'Aida' brings literature, diverse genres to fall show

Margaret Hair

Megan Rae plays Amneris in Steamboat Springs High School's production of "Aida."

— Steamboat Springs High School sophomores Hannah Ogden and Anna Poirot have been acting in productions together at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp for five years. In this year’s fall musical at the high school, they’ll share a role for the first time.

For the past nine weeks, Ogden and Poirot have been feeding off each other as they learn lines and songs for the title role in “Aida,” an updated love story based on a Verdi opera, with modern music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice. The girls have enjoyed the collaborative process and said there are hurdles in working with a split cast.

“It’s kind of hard learning things alongside someone else,” Ogden said, adding that the show’s roster of ballads and powerful, Disney-esque songs sets it apart from other Broadway musicals. Poirot said it has been helpful in some scenes to have a close friend to work with.

“If you don’t have any ideas for the section, then the other person might,” Poirot said.

“Aida” transplants a “Romeo and Juliet” storyline to ancient Egypt, where a high-ranking soldier falls in love with an enslaved princess. The story is classic, and the score very obviously is written by Elton John, who draws on a number of non-Broadway genres. Drama director Amy Pottinger, who is new this year to Steamboat Springs High School, said the show’s non-traditional elements appealed to her when she was selecting a fall musical.

“The genre of music (was appealing), but also the cultural part of it, it being African and Egyptian, allows the students to kind of understand something outside of themselves,” Pottinger said.

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During a dress rehearsal Monday evening, Pottinger sat in the auditorium’s second row, singing aloud when students slipped off tempo or hesitated with a lyric. “Aida,” a show Pottinger has produced before, poses a new kind of challenge to those students who have appeared in a number of community and Perry-Mansfield productions.

“They have to sing more genres of music, like reggae, blues and gospel – things that are more culturally driven,” Pottinger said, explaining that the show’s classic plot offers another cultural element to the production.

“This is literature – it’s opera and it’s Elton John and it’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – you can’t get any more steeped in classic literature,” she said.

The Steamboat Springs High School production of “Aida” went up on Thursday; shows continue at 7 p.m. today, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available in advance through the Steamboat Springs High School main office.