Mykaela Copeland has been piling up dream role after dream role in her four years at Ossining High School: wicked stepsister in “Cinderella,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Eponine in “Les Miserables” and, now, the title role in the Elton John-Tim Rice musical, “Aida.”
“This has a different element,” the senior says. “There’s gospel, but there’s also the sense that this is where your true heart is completely bared in every note you sing. Eponine was restrained, she couldn’t say what she really meant. Aida’s whole heart goes into everything she says, she doesn’t hold anything back, which is what I love so much about this character.”
The plot involves a Nubian princess who has to choose between the man she loves and her people, a difficult choice distilled in one pivotal song, “Easy As the Life.”
Copeland says it is right up there with Eponine’s “On My Own” from “Les Miz,” a musical moment the actress calls “one of the most profound moments of my high-school career when it comes to drama.”
In “Easy As the Life,” “this is a huge decision and all of those emotions — her horror, her sadness, the happiness about the moments they’ve spent together — are thrown into this one song. It’s powerful.”
Copeland says one of those tricks — actually, it’s the craft of acting — is identifying Aida’s emotional moments and making them distinct so that the audience connects with the character as a person.
Her emotions change, Copeland says, but Aida stays Aida throughout.
“What I love about Aida is that she stays true to herself the entire show. Her strength does not die down, even when she faces down the Egyptian princess.”
Things don’t end well for poor Aida, and Copeland predicts more than sniffles in the audience.
“I don’t think there will be a dry eye in the house,” she says.
And on the Monday after the show is over, when her high-school drama career is behind her? Has Copeland considered how she’ll feel?
“I try not to think about that,” she says with a big, brave smile.
“Aida,” 7 p.m. March 21, 22, 23, 24. Free, donations accepted. Tickets at the door.
Photo by Peter D. Kramer/The Journal News: Mykaela Copeland on the set of “Aida.”