June 15, 2014
Pop-rock musical version of Aida playing at The Venue in Orlando
Years ago I saw the opera "AIDA" at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center. It was an excruciating experience with a Nubian princess singing endlessly about her impending death. She would pause for a long moment and I would think, "Finally." But then she would start singing again and I would be thinking "Die already!" I dug my fingernails into my palms to stay awake. This new Clandestine ARTS production with music by Elton John and Tim Rice, is a refreshing new take on the story.
On the banks of the Nile, unfolds the triumphant tale of love that transcends warring nations and brings a country together. A contemporary musical take on the classic tale of timeless love. An enslaved Nubian princess, Aida (LaDawn Taylor), finds her heart entangled with Radames (Tony Flaherty), an Egyptian soldier who is betrothed to the Pharaoh's daughter, Amneris (Emily Grainger). As their forbidden love blossoms, Aida is forced to weigh her heart against the responsibility she faces as leader of her people. Aida and Radames's love for one another proves transcendent of cultural differences and ushers in a time of unprecedented peace between the warring nations.
Before the run through of the show, Emily had to rehearse several frantic costume changes. She was the first actor to arrive at The Venue and she was singing and dancing as she entered. Two seamstresses were at there sewing machines completing costumes during the rehearsal. In the scene, Emily sang a song about her strongest suit which happened to be her looks and fashion sense. In the final moments of the scene, she ripped off her red dress with the help of two slaves and then she was showered with golden pedals. The dress was held on with Velcro and it was a challenge to fling the garment behind her fast enough. The scene had to be rehearsed again and again which gave me extra time to sketch. The song is hip and seems to perfectly apply to today's selfie generation.
The music kept reminding me of the Disney Animated Features I worked on in the 1990s. The princess singing about he lack of freedom reminded me of Jasmin from Aladdin. LaDawn's strong African American chiseled features made her a perfect fit as AIDA and she sang beautifully. Tony as Radames had some strong chemistry in his love scenes with AIDA. As in the Opera, the two lovers were destined to die yet their love softened the heart of Pharaoh's daughter. Produced and directed by Derek Critzer, this is a huge extravagant production with projections offering exotic settings. Derek keeps the production hip and playful, like a scene in which a male dancer comes out in a costume covered in plastic bubbles. A runway was built up the center isle allowing the cast to walk out into the audience. At times, the chorus sang from the back of the theater giving a full surround sound experience. This is a huge, fresh, yet intimate production with strong singing and dancing, who could ask for more!
- Analog Artist Digital World