‘Aida’ opening at Cherry Hill High School East this weekend

From the singing to the acting to the plot, theater students from Cherry Hill High School East are delivering a powerful performance of “Aida” for their spring musical.

The Cherry Hill East Theater is putting on “Aida” for the second time as their spring musical. The show began on Feb. 28 and runs through March 9.

Director Tom Weaver described “Aida” as a more emotionally charged show than last year’s spring musical, “Peter Pan.”

Selecting “Aida” for the 2014 spring musical was a long process. The school performed the show nine years ago, but it wasn’t on Weaver’s mind as he brainstormed musical ideas.

“I went through the whole summer and early fall and couldn’t come up with a title that I was really passionate about,” Weaver said. “We built a shortlist through the Thespian Society, but I wasn’t really jazzed by it.”

Weaver would receive a call later in the fall from his vocal director, suggesting “Aida.” When he took it to his theater classes, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“Their initial reaction was what sealed the deal for me,” he said.

While most of the students knew what “Aida” was, there were some who weren’t familiar with it.

“I had no idea what it was,” Max Hoffman said. “But when I saw it, I was mesmerized by it.”

To make the students familiar with the play, Weaver showed a short video of a professional show to help gain more interest.

“Aida” is a romance musical set in ancient Egypt. The show’s title character, Aida, is a Nubian slave who falls in love with an Egyptian prince named Radames. With Radames engaged to be married, he is thrust into a complicated situation with his feelings toward Aida interfering. The music was done by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Because the musical is so emotionally powerful, the roles are very tough to pull off. However, Weaver said Cherry Hill East has such incredible depth in its theater department. He said they have at least five to six students who were good enough to perform the lead roles.

Hoffman and his friend Elisabeth Siegell are playing the lead roles of Radames and Aida in the show. The emotion of the show has helped enhance their chemistry together on stage.

“This show brought everyone together,” Hoffman said.

“Trust in your fellow actors is something I never felt until this show,” Siegell said.

Chelsea Campbell is new to the theater program this year. She said the vulnerability of the show has helped bring the cast together.

“There is definitely love and support,” she said.

Because of the number of snow days the school has had this winter, the rehearsal schedule has not been as typical as past years. Weaver said it hasn’t really thrown his students off.

However, it was three weeks ago, just prior to the show’s opening, when Weaver said the cast fully understood the emotion of the show. Since then, their performances have been top notch.

“Something clicked,” Weaver said. “They had that moment.”

Weaver said “Aida” has a more emotionally powerful approach than “Peter Pan” did last year, but said both shows are fulfilling to audiences in their own way.

“Aida” will be performed on Feb 28, March 1, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. and on March 2 and 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (856) 242–2222 ext. 2019.