note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
Fans of Verdi’s AIDA have been known to faint dead away at the mere mention of an Elton John version. The opera about the enslaved African princess is constantly performed on the world stage but once you get over the shock of a Broadway incarnation, you’ll find several moving songs in the Elton John/Tim Rice musical. Still, the lion’s share of the music in AIDA sounds suspiciously like another Tim Rice vehicle (with former partner, Andrew Lloyd Weber). When Aida is besieged by her people, surrounded JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR style, demanding she save them, you can’t help but think of the Rice/Weber megahit. And you’ll hear some EVITA in there, too.
The Arlington Friends of the Drama production of AIDA, which runs only through this weekend, has several performances to set it apart. Once you get over the confusion of white actors portraying both Africans and Egyptians (Oy Vey!) you understand why director Dana Bissett cast the dynamo, Tracy Nygard, in the lead. She can belt, she can whisper a lyric---and no one conveys irony and urgency like she can in a song (like “It’s Easy” [to forget him]. Her duets with David Lucey, the slave who recognizes her (“How I Know You”) and with Pedro Figueroa as the captain she converts to her cause and her heart (“Elaborate Lives”) give the Arlington production its power. Bissett gets strong work, too, from Ann McCoy as Aida’s rival and from Rich Mutkoski as the villain of the piece.