James Santos: Awed by Aida


Photo by Chris Nelson

Tonight, I took myself out on a theatre date alone, something I have not done in a very long time, and I’m so glad I did. I attended Shasta High Music Department’s production of AIDA the musical. Aida is a rock musical in two acts based on Giuseppe Verdi‘s Italian-language opera by the same name, the scenario of which was written by Auguste Mariette. The musical was originally produced by Disney Theatrical, with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and trust me, after working at the Met Opera, this version does not resemble the traditional opera in staging, style or sound.

As always, the group of parent volunteers (and some who no longer have kids going to the school) pulled out some incredible sets, costumes and some quick stage transitions. I must take my hat off to them; I know what hard work it is to find a group of people to make these things happen efficiently and effectively. On top of it all, I think they all are doing it still with a smile.

Yes, there were a few high school production moments I could have lived without, but remembering that Shasta High is a place for students to learn the craft and not have it perfected is important. In fact, I would say I have seen some local theatre moments that have not even come close to how well Shasta did tonight.

The largest part of my excitement about this production was brought on by three very talented students. In the role of Radames is Chase Buick, a senior at Shasta who I felt has strong potential as both an actor and a singer. He made me feel at ease as an audience member. Then, a familiar face to me was Alison DiBella, who was a cast member in “A Cascade Christmas” a few years ago. Boy, has she grown up. The number she sings in the second act prior to her wedding was a show-stopper for me; her voice is like silk. We do lose connection with her when they cover her face toward the end of her song with the wedding veil made of a heavy material. Hopefully someone catches that before the end of the run.

Last and not least, (in fact she sings more than anyone) is the girl with a gift from God, Madison Stanger. This girls rocks the role of Aida and this is not an easy task for a senior and (forgive me for saying, but a WHITE girl.) The role is usually played by an alto and, yes, an African-American woman. Madison, as young as she is, was able to break through the boundaries and, at times through her singing or dialogue, I thought I was in the middle of a sermon in the South. One thing is for sure, God has blessed her with a true talent.

I wish the cast a truly wonderful run of this show and I encourage all of you the catch a performance when you can.

Aida’s run continues with its final performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15. For more information, check out reporter Jim Dyar’s advance of the show. A media release about the production can be found here.

james-santosJames Santos is a Redding native. In 2003, he returned from New York City, where he performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and New York City Opera. As artistic director for the Dance Project, James made “A Cascade Christmas” a North State holiday tradition, now in its fith year. He is the Director of Dance at University Preparatory School in Redding and parent to a pair of busy tots. For more information about the Dance Project, visit danceprojectredding.com.

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