When Naparima Bowl’s extensive renovations cast uncertainty over the events scheduled to be hosted at their facility, one south-based youth group remained determined to bring their production to the stage.
This month, their resolve will come to fruition, as Presentation College Mixed Choir announces January 17–21 as the new dates for their production of Aida.
Originally scheduled to open in October 2017, this pop/rock musical brings together a vibrant group of students from over 15 secondary schools in T&T. It features an alternating cast of Chelsey Merrick and Martina Magalhaes (St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando) as Amneris; Aaron De Silva and Devon De Bourgh (Presentation College San Fernando) as Radames; and stars Jacinta Sandiford (St Joseph Convent, San Fernando), and Patrice Richardson (Holy Faith Convent, Couva) in the title role.
Last week, The T&T Performing Arts Network (PAN) visited one of the production’s rehearsals, and the cast could not mask how excited they were to show the public what they’ve been working on for almost eight months now.
When asked their feelings upon receiving the news about the indefinite closure of the Bowl, Richardson, Merrick, and De Bourgh said they were extremely disappointed, and at some point, lost encouragement at times, but hope and a sense of purpose still burned within them.
Richardson said: “I didn’t know anything about this musical until my vocal coach; Mrs Bernadette Roberts, told me about it and insisted that I audition.
“When I went home, I researched the musical and fell in love with it. Even before I went for the audition I started to learn the lines for Aida, I did not know I was going to get the role but I wanted the role when I found out what the character was about. I worked really hard learning those lines and songs. I came for a purpose and I wanted to fulfil that purpose.”
Merrick added: “ We already put out a lot of energy and effort into this and the show was shaping up to be amazing. It was worth sticking around for.”
De Bourgh recalled: “Even when the Musical’s rehearsals were temporarily canceled so the choir can focus on Christmas repertoire, or when the cast would lime, we will still be running parts and singing songs from AIDA at the top of our lungs.
“To see that we were still so dedicated to the production, even after hearing that the musical was put off without any confirmation on when it will be restaged, gave me that extra drive to stay the course.”
To remain vigilant even in the face of unfavorable odds can be a daunting task.
When asked why rehearsal continued even in the absence of a confirmed production date, Director Dexter Crawford replied: “It was the trust put in me by the producers and the cast to deliver a high-quality production.
“The cast especially trusted my process and bought into my vision. I could not betray that trust, or disappoint them. We had to make this happen.”
Poetically, the production’s journey to Naparima Bowl echoes a line from the play itself. In the musical, when faced with despair, Aida reignites the hope within the enslaved Nubians camp when she affirms that “Nubia will never die. Nubia lives in our heart. And therefore... it lives.”
Aida the Musical is a timeless love story about Aida, an enslaved Nubian princess and her romantic entanglement with an Egyptian captain, who is betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter. As their forbidden love grows deeper, Aida is forced to find balance between her heart’s yearning, and her responsibility to lead her people.
The choir received confirmation of the new dates in mid-December of 2017.
Musical director Peter Lockhart thanked parents for their support during the lengthy process.
Under the artistic direction of Dexter Crawford, Aida is led by a powerhouse production team which includes Peter Lockhart (musical director); Cedel Hinds (assistant musical director); Triston Wallace (choreographer), with Breige Wilson and Omar Jarra as associate choreographers; Fight choreography by Joash Webb; costume Design by Marlon De Bique; Lighting design by Curtis Bachan; sound design by Kino Alvarez, projections by North Eleven, and stage management by Samantha Stanislaus.
Presentation College Mixed Choir’s production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida will run from January 17– 21 at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando. School matinees will run from Wednesday–Friday, while evening performances will begin from Friday and continue until Sunday.