Out of Africa and onto the Dunedin High School stage comes Aida, a modern rock opera set in ancient Egypt with timeless themes of love, deception, assassination and war.
With a Tony award-winning musical score by Elton John and Tim Rice, the high-energy pop production is bound to be a hit with audiences of all ages.
"The kids love singing the songs," said Gerald Durst, the school's drama teacher and show's director. The music includes the genres of gospel and rock, with a peppering of tribal African sounds.
Aida is said to be the school's biggest, most expensive, most elaborate musical ever.
Durst estimates the epic production will cost up to $10,000 to produce — about twice that of most of Dunedin High's productions.
Fortunately, parents and businesses stepped in to cover most of the expense with money and in-kind donations and services.
The plot revolves around a love triangle as two princesses from warring nations vie for the hand of Radames, the captain of the Egyptian army.
"It's all about star-crossed lovers who struggle with duty vs. passion," said Durst. "Everyone has to learn to deal with their emotions.
"Needless to say, the teenagers identify with it."
Radames' role is played by Adam Zeph, a junior who will be off to Oklahoma City University soon for a summer theater program. For now, though, he is Radames, the intended successor to Pharaoh's throne, betrothed to Pharaoh's daughter, Amneris (Nicole Kendall).
When Nubian princess Aida (Rachel Daniels) is captured and enslaved, Radames falls for her — and their troubles begin.
Daniels, a Dunedin High senior, plans to pursue her musical theater dreams at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City in the fall.
The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2000, is based on Giuseppe Verdi's Italian opera by the same name. An animated Disney film was inspired by the children's storybook version, and when that didn't materialize, the theatrical version evolved.
"It has a lot going on," said Durst. "Pride in my students and this show is an understatement."
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