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Broadway Series South will present the eagerly anticipated Raleigh premiere of Disney Theatrical Productions’ new two-act pop-musical extravaganza Aida, which was loosely suggested by the celebrated four-act 1871 opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The award-winning Broadway production of this classic tale of interracial love and betrayal in time of war features a book by Linda Woolverton and Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, new music by ultra-flamboyant rock singer Elton John, and new lyrics by Tim Rice.
Elton John and Tim Rice’s first effort since writing the score of The Lion King together, Aida initially opened in Atlanta, but was radically revamped before it debuted at the Palace Theatre on Broadway on March 23, 2000. Most critics hated it, but audiences loved it. Indeed, Aida has been playing to packed houses on Broadway ever since.
The show took home four 2000 Tony® Awards — for Best Score, Best Lead Actress in a Musical (Heather Headley), Best Scenic Design (Bob Crowley), and Best Lighting Design (Natasha Katz) — and the 2001 Grammy® Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Based on an ancient Egyptian legend, this visually stunning Disney version of Aida opens in the Egyptian room of a modern-day museum, before flashing back to ancient Egypt during a long-ago time when Egypt was at war with its southern neighbor, Nubia.
Aida stars British-born actress Paulette Ivory in the title role of the heroic captive Nubian princess forced to serve as handmaiden to Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris; Jeremy Kushnier as Aida’s captor and lover, the Egyptian explorer and war hero captain Radames; and Lisa Brescia as the Egyptian princess Amneris to whom Radames is already betrothed to marry in a match arranged by Radames’ ultra-ambitious father. Torn between love and duty, the three star-crossed lovers form a tragic love triangle that plays out against a background of court intrigue and foreign wars.
Paulette Ivory is a veteran of many West End productions in London. (She was the original Nala in the London production of The Lion King.) Jeremy Kushnier originated the role of Ren in the Broadway production of Footloose and played Roger in the National Tour of Rent, and Lisa Brescia played a Disciple in the recent Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Other featured cast members include Eric L. Christian as Radames’ wheeling-and-dealing Nubian servant Mereb, Robert Neary as Radames’ Machiavellian father Zoser, and Peter Kapetan as the dying Pharaoh secretly poisoned by Zoser and his henchmen.
Director Robert Falls, who won a 1999 Tony winner for staging Death of a Salesman and directed the Broadway premiere of Aida, will direct the National Tour of Aida. The touring production of this blockbuster musical also features the magnificent choreography of Wayne Cilento, Bob Crowley’s dazzling costumes and awesome Tony-winning sets and Natasha Katz’s superlative Tony-winning lighting design, which may very well be the best lighting design ever at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Paul Bogaev will provide music supervision and orchestrations.
“You could say that some Egyptian deity or other has smiled on Disney,” wrote Charles Isherwood about Aida in the March 27, 2000, issue of Daily Variety, “but that would be to discount the hard work — and the loads of money that have gone into the striking evolution of the Elton John-Tim Rice musical ‘Aida’ since its world premiere [in 1998] in Atlanta. In its new, vastly improved incarnation, ‘Aida’ is still not a Broadway musical for the ages — it’s not even a Broadway musical for all ages — but it has been transformed from a garish misfire into an extravagantly pretty pop fantasy that’s aimed carefully, and cannily, at teenyboppers and teenyboppers-at-heart. The show will delight the kids who swoon over ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and spend millions on Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera records. With an advance of 815 million, it will be packing them in for some time to come.”
Isherwood added, “The resolutely contemporary attitude that now infuses all aspects of the show is a brilliant stroke. It frees up ‘Aida’ to make fun of itself; in Atlanta, the show’s wisecracks often fell flat because they weren’t as funny as the ludicrous period costumes, the stale choreography, the stilted dialogue. Here, the show’s latter-day attitude lets us know it’s in on the joke (‘I’ll say this for you Egyptians,’ muses Aida, stroking a scarf, ‘you’ve got a mean thread count’).”
“Grand opera is as much about spectacle as gorgeous arias,” claimed Elyse Sommer in her CurtainUp review of Aida. “Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Aïda,’ for example, has been staged with a live elephant on stage. You won’t find an elephant at the Palace where the popera version of the doomed love story of the Nubian princess Aida and the Egyptian captain Radames [plays]. But Bob Crowley, with a strong assist from lighting designer Natasha Katz, has provided enough eye-popping scenic effects and costumes to make ‘Aida’ look great. A bath scene in the women’s quarters complete with handmaidens whirling around a vertical pool (it’s done with a scrim and suspension wires) more than compensates for the absence of elephants.”
Broadway Series South presents Aida Wednesday, Oct. 23 and 30, at 8 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 24, at 2 and 8 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St. $21-$70, except $21 all seats 2 p.m. Oct. 24 and Special Web Offer: $10 off Mezzanine and Front Balcony seats Oct. 23-27 when ordered online via http://www.ticketmaster.com/. 919/834-4000 or 231-4575 (group discounts). http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2002-2003/broadway.html#aida [inactive 4/04] or http://disney.go.com/disneytheatrical/aida/index.html.