For a few years, Wenie Lado kept her interest in Aida to herself.
The Wauwatosa senior who will play the title role in the school's production of Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida" beginning March 9 was drawn in her pre-teens to the music and story of the bond between a Nubian princess and an Egyptian soldier.
Lado was born in Cairo, Egypt, to Nubian parents who escaped the Sudan in the midst of civil war and eventually moved to the U.S. She was just 3.
"I don't remember much until we moved here," Lado said.
A grateful director
"I think she was sending messages to my brain telepathically," mused East Theater Director Tom Thaney.
Telepathic or not, Thaney saw that Lado's theatrical and musical talent matched her ancestral connection.
"It's an interesting connection," Thaney said, "but she got the part because she has the talent. She has worked hard."
After failing as a freshman to land a part in "Little Shop of Horrors," she returned the next year as a member of the chorus in "Jekyll and Hyde" and as the diva Carlotta in "Phantom of the Opera."
"I really enjoy being in these production," Lado said. "I know that when I perform in 'Aida' I will bring with me a certain amount of extra emotion because I feel that connection."
Senior Jacob Livingston will play one of the other leads, Egyptian captain Radames, who is Aida's love interest.
"I didn't know Wenie's background until this production," Livingston said. "It really adds a special element to the story.
"She has a great range and can hit all the notes perfectly."
Looking ahead and back
Lado hopes to keep hitting those perfect notes beyond high school. She plans to enroll in a collegiate music program where she can study musical theater.
Behind the talent is a family that has endured hardship through faith.
Shortly after the family arrived in the U.S., Lado's mother died. Her father, Morris Bayi, has raised five children on the far west side of Milwaukee, just a block from the Wauwatosa border. Open Enrollment allowed entrance to the Wauwatosa School District.
Bayi said he is proud of all his children, including two college graduates, a current college student and a younger daughter in middle school. He said he will be happy to watch Wenie perform.
"My kids are doing great things," he said. "I am thinking that this is a great thing for Wenie, and it is a measure of her life that we have good things happening for her."
Bayi, a Christian whose diverse life included marrying a Muslim, credits the devine for the family's success.
"I am thinking that in our heart of hearts, God is always there."
If you go
WHAT: Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA
WHERE: Wauwatosa East High School, 7500 W. Milwaukee Ave.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. March 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. March 11
TICKETS: $15 for adults; $8 for senior citizens, students with ID and children 12 and younger