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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Aida

Compared to Beauty & the Beast, it took no time at all for Disney's Aida tour to reach Pittsburgh. The show, still going strong on Broadway after two years, has enjoyed long runs in other major U.S. cities (plus Canada) and success wherever the tour lands. In addition to the Disney name, the above the title credits are Elton John and Tim Rice, well known and popular for their music and theatre collaborations and long careers.

Based on the story from Giuseppe Verdi's opera of the same name, Aida tells the tale of the enslaved Nubian Princess who becomes the pivotal point in a romantic triangle with Captain Radamés and his betrothed, Princess Amneris, daughter of the Pharaoh. Captured by Radamés' men, Aida falls in love with the Captain while also befriending Amneris, to whom Aida is assigned as handmaiden. Radamés returns Aida's love as he becomes enchanted with her spirit and the inherent royal aura she cannot hide. Radamés' father, Zoser, is taking action to ensure that the Pharaoh's reign ends soon so that Radamés, after marrying Amneris, can take over as ruler. Though the story takes place in ancient Egypt, the musical Aida's presentation seldom stays true to the era. Aida is a pop musical, with scenes of campy comic relief battling semi-authentic depictions of the love triangle.

The tour cast in place at the Pittsburgh stop includes Paulette Ivory as Aida, Patrick Cassidy as Radamés, Kelli Fournier as Amneris, and Robert Neary as Zoser. Ivory is a beautiful actress with a lovely voice, though she lacks that sparkle required for the audience to fall in love with her as Radamés does. Cassidy is appealing and competent in his role, though he hardly has the voice to carry such songs as the anthem "Elaborate Lives." Depicted as a clothes obsessed valley girl who magically transforms into a cunning ruler by play's end, Fournier excels, both as the silly and the sly. If you don't question why her character acts the way she does, it's easy to take joy in watching Fournier play the role to the hilt. With white hair and beard, Neary looks eerily similar to Cassidy's real father, actor Jack Cassidy, and even made up as such is clearly not old enough to be Radamés' father. But he does quite well in playing the sinister goal oriented murderer.

Aida's score is lively and contains all the required song styles of a Disney animated film. Lighting, by Natasha Katz, is the flash of brilliance that makes the show look better than it really is and can take credit for a lot of Aida's appeal. Costumes by Bob Crowley (who also designed the able set) are all over the map. Choreography by Wayne Cilento hits and misses and at times too closely resembles that of a 1990s MTV video. The Aida tour moves on to Cleveland. The full schedule can be tracked at Playbill.com.

Disney Theatrical Productions presents
Aida
At the Benedum Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Tim Rice. Book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang. Suggested by the opera. Starring Paulette Ivory, Patrick Cassidy, Kelli Fournier, Robert Neary, Jacen R. Wilkerson, Mark La Mura. Directed by Robert Falls. Choreography by Wayne Cilento. Scenic & Costume Design by Bob Crowley. Lighting Design by Natasha Katz. Sound Design by Steve C. Kennedy. Produced by Peter Schneider and Thomas Schumacher.


See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.


-- Ann Miner

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