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East Ridge High School’s fall musical “Aida” will open Nov. 8 at the Loft Stage. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

East Ridge staged to rock with 'Aida'

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East Ridge High School will be rocking the Loft Stage next week.

East Ridge’s fall musical, “Aida,” opens Nov. 8.

The musical, written by Elton John and Tim Rice, is a story of forbidden love between the Egyptian soldier Radames and the beautiful Nubian princess Aida. Aida is captured and forced to be a slave to the pharaoh’s daughter, who is also in love with Radames.

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“I love a good love story,” director Amanda Hestwood said. “I love how the show mirrors life.”

A new style of music

Hestwood said she chose “Aida” for this year’s musical because it would introduce students to an entirely different style of show since the music is contemporary and rock-influenced.

“Last year’s ‘White Christmas’ could not have been more different than this,” she said. 

Since “Aida” is more contemporary, and not so much traditional Broadway, Hestwood said students have had to tap into a new part of their voices.

“It’s a whole new set of tools that they get to pull out of the tool box and use,” she said.

East Ridge senior Naomi Ridley, who plays Amneris, the pharaoh’s daughter, said the music in “Aida” was something completely new to her.

“I’m more used to the classic Broadway-style,” she said. “So, it’s definitely a new style for me. It was challenging for us at the beginning, but we’ve grown a lot.”

East Ridge senior Luke Syrstan, who plays the role of Radames, said he actually fit quite comfortably into the rock and roll format.

“Even though it’s a lot different than any other show we’ve done style-wise,” he said, “I actually prefer that – it just fits me better.”

Hestwood said the rock feel of “Aida” will also come through with its costumes and sets.

“We are combining a real Egyptian look with a nod to the rock stars of our generation,” she said.

Additionally, Hestwood said the show will be incorporating some unique lighting.

“This is going to have a very different look and feel, almost more like a rock concert,” she said.

Putting the pieces together

Just like with any musical, “Aida” has a number of moving parts – sounds, lighting, actors, sets, costumes – and one of the people who is responsible for making sure all those moving parts work together is the student director.

The student director for “Aida” is East Ridge senior Alex Berger.

Leading up to the performances, Berger has been busy helping the cast memorize their lines and understand their blocking.

But, come opening night, Berger will be working closely with the technical staff on calling out cues.

“I love the ability to combine what’s happening on stage and the technical aspects,” he said. “I like being able to help everyone through the process from day one.”

Berger said he is filled with excitement and nerves in anticipation of opening night.

“You have to be willing to fly by the seat of your pants because it’s live theater so nothing is perfect,” he said. “You have to be able to problem solve on the fly. I can’t wait for everyone to see how hard we’ve worked.”

East Ridge High School’s production of “Aida” will run Nov. 8-9 at 7 p.m., Nov. 10 at 3 p.m., Nov. 15-16 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $8 for seniors. Tickets for the opening night gala, which will be Nov. 8 at 6 p.m., are $10. East Ridge will be collecting “Books for Africa” during all performances. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.theloftstage.com.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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