Every summer, a major live stage performance takes place in the Leon High School Auditorium. This will be the second year the casting call has been extended to every public high school in the county.
The director for these summer theatre extravaganzas is Naomi Rose-Mock. This year, she’s at the helm of a particularly challenging production that’s never been attempted on any local stage.
“Aida is a love story set in ancient Egypt between a Nubian Princess, Aida, and an Egyptian Captain Radames. Verdi made an opera about it several hundred years ago, but this is Elton John’s rock/pop musical interpretation of it. Stylistically we have songs in reggae style, power love ballads, you’ll hear Elton John all over it. For Leon this is a big departure because we haven’t done a rock musical before. We’ve done more choral-sounding things,” Rose-Mock said.
Of course, there is a title character. Except in this case there are two actors portraying that character.
“I’m India Linsicome and I’ll be playing Aida.” “I’m Maya Barber and I’ll be playing Aida.”
Rose-Mock explained there are practical and artistic reasons for having dual casts.
“We like to do double casts whenever possible because first when we have younger voices singing challenging material like Sir Elton John has written for this show, it helps save those voices and you get a little bit of a rest, although not a lot. And second if we have the depth in the talent pool, which we certainly do this year, we can feature as many talented people as possible.”
In order to recruit the area’s very top high school talent, Rose-Mock said the casting call went out far and wide.
“We started last year and continued this year. We went to all of the public high schools in Tallahassee. We went to each campus to be more inclusive and more accessible to the kids from other schools. I think this cast is 50% Leon kids and 50% from the rest of the county and we have every high school in Leon County represented. I think this is the first time that’s been the case.”
India Linsicome said it’s a fantastic experience to work alongside so many great student actors.
“It’s so awesome getting different talent from each school, working with everybody and not just Leon kids, but Lincoln, Rickards, Godby, Chiles, I think it’s awesome!” she exclaimed.
Given the vast demands of this musical, Rose-Mock said a separate all-star cast was assembled for all the behind-the-scenes supporting roles.
“Tabitha Peck is the music director and the producer. She’s also the director of choral activities at Leon High School. Peter Pursino is the other Leon chorus teacher and the vocal coach. My husband Mike Mock did the set design and built the set. This is his sixth year doing that. Emma Kerr did the choreography. We always have so many volunteers for these productions, it’s always close to 100 people behind the scenes.”
On top of everything, the sometimes fiendishly complex - although amazingly catchy - Elton John score is being played by a live band. The Aida portrayer known as Maya Barber was hoping local audiences would find the production as exciting as she does.
“I can’t even put into words how beautiful the story is and how amazing the show and the cast are. It’s so great, you definitely have to come and see it and it’s something you don’t want to miss!”
And Rose-Mock said there will be ample opportunities to enjoy Aida.
“We have our preview performance on Thursday, July 11 and then two weeks of shows, Thursday through Sunday with Sunday matinees.”
All of this happen on the Leon High School stage, featuring 75 of Leon County’s very best student performers.