Aida on a Nashua stage
Peacock Players’ season includes New Hampshire premiere of Elton John musical
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
How did Keith Weirich, an Equity actor from New York who has appeared on Broadway and traveled extensively to perform, end up in Nashua? Ten years ago he was acting in an American Stage Festival production of Forever Plaid and met a girl who worked at the box office. A couple years ago they got married, and now Weirich is beginning his second season as artistic director of the Peacock Players.
The unique show this year for the children’s theater education company is Aida.
“It’s certainly a New Hampshire premiere; we wanted to be the first people to do it,” Weirich said. Peacock Players, founded in 1974, were part of American Stage Festival before it closed.
Created by Elton John and Tim Rice in the wake of Disney’s success with The Lion King on Broadway, Aida is based on a Verdi opera. In the musical, a Nubian princess is captured and brought to Egypt. An Egyptian captain falls for Aida, although he is betrothed to the princess of Egypt. To save Aida from dangerous labor, he makes of gift of her as a handmaiden to his betrothed.
Brady Lynch, 17, of Amherst, plays Aida, and has credits in about eight Peacock shows.
“Brady is an immensely talented girl. She would have to be to play Aida,” Weirich said. Lynch saw Aida just before it closed in New York. “I sobbed my way through it,” she said. Playing the role is a “dream come true.”
“Aida’s got so much power behind her,” Lynch said. Lynch’s other preparation now is for college auditions. She hopes to continue her acting studies at Boston Conservatory but has also applied to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Carnegie Mellon, Shenandoah University and Plymouth State University. She describes Peacock Players as a “safe haven” with a “lasting impact” where she can learn new techniques and experiment.
Other talents are Shaina Schwartz, 16, who choreographed the show.
Weirich decided to go with colorblind casting, although the Broadway company cast black actors as Nubians and Anglo-Saxon actors as Egyptians. “That’s a theme that’s conceptually introduced into the Broadway story,” Weirich said, but actors’ races are actually irrelevant to Aida’s larger themes of war and love, he explained. Another departure they made is to set Aida’s story entrance point in an archaeological dig site rather than a museum.
The Peacock Players are adding a Holiday Spectacular this year, which will include skits and feature another new item, their Spotlight “musical theater touring troupe.” Seven guys and seven girls will perform songs everywhere from senior centers to a booking at Lincoln Center.
In February, the season continues with Disney’s Aladdin, followed by a Broadway revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in March, finishing in May with the “Mt. Everest of children’s musicals,” as Weirich puts it, The Wizard of Oz. Neither American Stage Festival or Peacock Players did it, he said.
Aida runs Nov. 10 through Nov. 19 at 14 Court St. Theater, Nashua, at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $12 to $15.