Assoc. Arts & Culture Editor
Millersville University’s All Campus Musical Organization, or as they’re better known as ACMO, has always been known to put on a good show, whether it’s their fall showcases, benefit concerts, and of course, their spring musicals. However, the student-run theatre organization and their director Seth Sponhouse are hoping to outdo themselves with their upcoming Spring 2014 musical, “Aida.”
The show is based on Giuseppe Verdi’s Italian-language opera by the same name, but was remade into a musical with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. It ran on Broadway from 2000 to 2004 and found continued success with two national US tours and performances in 20 different countries. The musical is set in ancient Egypt and tells the story of Aida, the princess of Nubia who has been captured and taken into slavery by the Egyptian army along with many other Nubians. With her royal identity a secret to everyone except for a select few, Aida defies Radames, the captain of the Egyptian army, and his men, stating that while Egypt may take everything away from the Nubians, they will never take away their spirit. Strangely enough, Radames finds himself drawn to her, saves her from a life of enslavement and allows her to serve as a handmaiden for Amneris, the princess of Egypt and his fiancée. As time passes, the two women become friends, a love triangle develops between Aida, Radames and Amneris, and Aida fears that she has betrayed her people by loving Radames.
Due to the show’s rock feel, energy and romance, “Aida” seemed like a perfect fit for a musical group looking for something fresh and new to bring to the stage. Planning for the show began back in July for ACMO with them obtaining the rights, digging into the script, and developing ideas for sets and costumes. Auditions for the musical happened in November, and the cast, which is made up of 24 actors and actresses, has been practicing almost everyday since the first day of the semester.
Friday evening of February 21 was like any other day for the cast of “Aida.” They arrived at the Winter Center’s dance studio for practice, where they ran through music numbers for Act 2 of the musical, which includes songs such as “A Step Too Far”, “Easy as Life”, and “Like Father, Like Son”. “We’re in the process of getting all the music and choreography done and memorized,” explained Sponhouse. “It will make blocking and running through the show easier and will make the scenes flow more naturally for everyone.”
Taking over as director is nothing new for Sponhouse, who has been involved in theatre since age eight, served as an executive board member for ACMO, assisted directed an ACMO showcase and directed a showcase and last year’s spring musical “Legally Blonde”. However, it’s never unusual for a production staff to face challenges during the planning and rehearsing of the show, and “Aida” has been no exception. According to Sponhouse, scheduling and making sure that everyone is on the same page during rehearsals has been an issue this semester with the abundance of snow days. Even costumes have presented a unique challenge, because, as Sponhouse states, “Unlike last year with ‘Legally Blonde’, all the costumes for ‘Aida’ are being made from scratch.”
Still, the process still seems to be running smoothly, despite all the snow. “Our cast and production staff is amazing,” Sponhouse says. “The sets are being built at a very fast pace, and our costume designer has been doing an incredible job. Being able to step back and watch our 24 actors make it all worthwhile.”
Sponhouse couldn’t be more confident that his cast and crew will pull through in time for the curtains to rise on “Aida’s” opening night on Thursday, March 27. “The show is going to be breathtaking,” Sponhouse says with a smile. “Never in my four years at Millersville have I ever been surrounded by so much talent.”
Tickets for “Aida” are already on sale. Tickets cost $10 general admission, $7 Senior Citizens and students with valid ID, $5 for MU-ID Super Saver (advanced tickets only at the Student Memorial Center ticket window, 2 per MU-ID). Tickets may be purchased online, atMUTicketsOnline.com, at the Student Memorial Center Ticket Office (Room 103), by calling the Ticket Office at 717-872-3811 or at the Ware Center Box Office (42 N. Prince St., Lancaster). Ticket Offices are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.