Coal City High School junior Riley Nevin has been chosen to play a lead character in the 2020 Illinois All State Production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida.”
Riley will rehearse with the rest of the cast throughout the fall and winter and play the role of Radames in January at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.
This is the first time a CCHS student has landed a lead role in the state musical, which the high school’s musical theatre director and teacher Jack Micetich compares to when an athlete or sports team “takes state.”
“Just to even make the show is a huge accomplishment,” Micetich said, “but to land a role of that caliber is just a huge, huge milestone for him as a performer and for us as a program.”
Last year the high school’s Gavyn Williams landed a role in the production’s ensemble, which he said was also an exciting accomplishment. Prior to that, Coal City students were members of the production’s tech crew.
Riley said he was thrilled when he found out he got the role.
“It was crazy,” he said of when he was notified by email.
Riley said there was so much good talent in the auditions and that he felt he probably wouldn’t get a part, but he wanted the challenge and experience of the audition and the chance that he might make it.
“I knew that I had to step up my game if I wanted to be a top-notch talent,” he said.
Riley has taken voice lessons ever since he decided he wanted to pursue theatre in a serious way.
His first play was as a fourth grader in “Snow White.” He’s also had roles in “Newsies,” “13 The Musical,” “Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,” “High School Musical 2,” “Les Misérables,”
“Tuck Everlasting, The Musical” and in both of this summer’s productions, “Once on this Island” and “Hairspray,” which will run July 25 to 28.
Micetich said he and the other adults who help with the plays know that Riley has talent for acting and singing.
“I think we knew from when we saw him in ‘The Lion King,’” Micetich said. “There is something very special about him. As you watch him on stage, you just become enthralled. He’s very invested in everything he does.”
Micetich said Riley once surprised him during a “Les Misérables” rehearsal when Riley, who played Grantaire in the musical, did a back flip off the barricades prop and a face plant on the stage to enhance his character’s role. It was his own idea, Micetich said.
Riley said that musical was a challenging one for him and many others in the cast, as it was all sung.
“There were no lines in the show,” he said. “You had to act through your singing. That was a big eye-opener to a lot of us in the production. We had to show emotions through our singing. . . It was also so heavy and so emotionally-driven, but everyone was enjoying it every minute.”
He said he would not have landed the role in “Aida” were it not for the mentorship, training and encouragement of the adults in Coal City’s theatre program.
“They had everything to do with it,” he said.
According to the Illinois High School Theatre Festival’s website, “Aida” is an “epic tale of love, loyalty and betrayal, chronicling the love triangle between Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country; Amneris, an Egyptian princess; and Radames, the soldier they both love.”
Rehearsals for “Aida” will take place during this fall and winter’s school breaks. “Aida” will run January 6 to 12.