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One UCF alumna is ready to step into the limelight.

Jerusha Cavazos, a 2014 graduate, is set to play the title role in Aida at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts. The pop-rock musical, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, will grace the Walt Disney Theater stage July 15 and July 16.

"I've always had supporting lead roles … but I've never been the lead of a show," she said. "So the actual title character of a show, I'm looking forward to that. It's something new."

Aida is about an enslaved Nubian princess who falls in love with her captor's betrothed and faces the decision of choosing her love or representing her people.

"Aida has always been a dream role of mine, and I am overjoyed that I have the opportunity to play her," Cavazos said.

The musical theatre BFA graduate has been acting since she was 10, having come from a theatrical family. Her father performed on Broadway in the '80s in Pacific Overtures and My Fair Lady.

"It was no surprise I took after him," Cavazos said.

In college, she was cast in Theatre UCF productions such as Ragtime, Spring Awakening and Side Show.

"One of the greatest lessons I learned during my time at Theatre UCF, which has helped me in the professional theater world today, was the lesson of discipline," she said. "Because of the discipline instilled in Theatre UCF students by faculty, the students have a unique work ethic that is noticed among employers."

The show will be on stage for two days, and Cavazos will have only a month of rehearsal before its premiere. She rehearses three or four times per week for four hours and practices on her own in the meantime.

"This show has its fair share of challenges and rewards," she said. "The best way I can describe it is that it is like a marathon. It requires a lot of endurance because it is a vocally and emotionally demanding role."

Encore Cast Performing Arts is producing this Aida run, which was founded by Disney cast members in search of a creative and charitable outlet. The proceeds from Encore's shows go to local charities "that make Central Florida a better place to live," according to its website.

To date, Encore has raised more than $225,000 for charity.

In 2011, Encore donated its summer concert proceeds to help the Dr. Phillips Center project, said Emily Lloyd, Encore's communication coordinator.

"Four years later, Encore is thrilled to perform in a venue that they were able to contribute to, and continue a story of mutual love for the arts," she said.

Aida tickets start at $33.75 and can be purchased at drphillipscenter.org.

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Noelle Campbell is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Noellecampz or email her at NoelleC@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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