Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Aida"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"Aida"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at The North Shore Music Theatre is the smash hit musical "Aida" with the Tony and Grammy Award winning score by Elton John and Tim Rice. Based on Verdi's opera, "Aida" is an epic and classic tale of love, loyalty,betrayal and courage. The Broadway show opened on March 23, 2000 and just closed on September 5, 2004, running for 1852 performance. The show is a true and passionate love story that tells of the love traingle between Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, and Radames, the soldier they both love. North Shore Music Theatre is among the first regional theaters in the country to produce an original production of this show, conceived and designed for the theatre's in-the-round stage. Director Stafford Arima chooses the best cast to portray each and everyone of these roles with the helpful hand of Andrew Graham as music director who gets tremendous vocals from the cast in many different style of music including rock, gospel, blues and pop ballads acheiving a perfect harmonic blend from the cast and the orchestra and the energetic choreography by Patricia Wilcox adds the finishing touches to this sensational musical, making it the must see show of this season. The power of this show leads the audience to tears at its poignancy and makes it rise to its feet to give it the standing ovation it so richly deserves.

Scenic designer Bill Stabile creates the atmosphere of Egypt with a series of banners throughout the theater and use a series of platforms to represent the Egyptian barge and various locations. It is utilized to a greatest effect during the "Like Father, Like Son" number when they are in constant motion on a revolving set, giving it a heightened sense of turmoil between the two men. Also impressive are the elevator segments of the stage that represent prision cells and other various locales for quick exits. The numerous costumes by Randall Klein are breathtaking and include the comic outfits of "My Strongest Suit" as well as a bridal outfit and Egyptian warrior and slave costumes. Gerard Kelly does a great job with the many wigs and hairstyles in the show while Kirk Bookman handles the lighting design and John Stone handles the sound, both making it look and sound perfect.

Montego Glover tackles the role of Aida and makes it her own not only with her acting, singing and dancing prowess but in her regal bearing, showing the power of her presence and is outstanding in all her scenes. Her splendid voice stops the show at the end of Act 1 in "The Gods Love Nubia" (which musically at times reminds you of "The Rose") where she and the chorus celebrate the beauty of their homeland with an exuberant dance and again in Act 2 in "Easy As Life" where she sings about leaving the man she loves because of her love for her father who demands she leaves her lover. Montego's duets also soar in the beautiful ballads "Enchanment Passing Through", "Written in the Stars" and in "Elaborate Lives" with Brad Anderson who plays Radames. Brad possesses an awesome baritone voice which he uses in the belting rock song "Fortune Favors The Brave" as well as in the duets and in the moving plea to Aida called "Radames Letter". He makes the transition from callous warrior to tender, understanding lover with ease. Brad and Montego have wonderful chemistry with each other, making every moment count whether comic or dramatic. He has the commanding physical prowess to play this part, too. The confrontation song with his father is another powerful moment in the show where Radames goodness opposes his father's evil intentions. The third member of this triangle, Amneris is played splendidly by Janine LaManna. Her first song, Every Story Is a Love Story" begins as a quiet ballad then builds into a powerful, belting rock song which knocks your socks off. Janine next appears as an empty headed blonde bombshell and her character is hilarious throughout especially when she shows her only interest is in her wardrobe in "My Strongest Suit" (which is a play on the word suit) and it becomes a dynamic dance routine ala The Supremes with Janine doing some Tina Turner style moves, too. She also handles the dramatic turn of Amneris after she discovers Radames love for Aida in the song "I Know the Truth". Her handmaidens dress her in a wedding gown as she sings this song where she reminds you of Evita. The three leads in this show are dynamic, giving a strong foundation with their fellow performers to create a memorable and powerful musical.

The loveable but mischievous slave of Radames, Merob is played wonderfully by Derrick Baskin. He has an incredible tenor voice in "How I Know You" where he discloses that he knows Aida is a princess and in the fantastic quartet with Montego, Brad and Janine called "Not Me". Derrick is the comic character who brings much laughter to the crowd but he shows his noble side later on to protect Aida. The sinister villain, Zoser is played terrifically by John Schiappa. (Zoser is secretly poisoning the Pharaoh so his son Radames will become the leader of Egypt.) His first number, "Another Pyramid" is chilling and the dance with his ministers is excellent as is the "Like Father, Like Son" number with Brad. Q. Smith plays Nehebka, a slave girl who sacrifices herself for Aida. She gets to show off her powerful voice in "The Dance of the Robe" which sounds like an "Evita" number during the chanting of Aida. The Pharaoh and the King of Nubia are played with regal bearing by James Bodge and J. Bernard Calloway. The chorus members do fabulous work with their singing and dancing throughout the show, earning it the kudos it well deserves.

Before the show be sure to stop into North Shore Music Theatre's topnotch restaurant, Overtures and enjoy an all you can eat delicious buffet supper with a multitude of selections. Chris Hayes, the director of food and beverage, oversees your every need and his staff keeps the food and drinks coming all night long. They change their buffet for every show and some of the selections this time included a baby spinach salad with spiced walnuts, sliced apples, goat cheese and cider vinaigrette dressing, fresh rolls and butter a fresh cucumber and tomato salad with ranch dressing, fresh pumpkin ravioli, oven roasted turkey breast with gray, fall mixed veggies, roasted butternut squash soup and sauerbrate with braised red cabbage. My wonderful waitress was Laura who kept my water glass constantly filled while bringing me Sierra Mist and removing every empty plate immediately. All the food is freshly prepared at the restaurant. For dessert I had the melt in your mouth carrot cake. So for a superb night of dining and theatre, The North Shore Music Theatre can't be beat. Be sure to catch "Aida" before it's too late.

"Aida" ( 26 October - 21 November)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA
1 (978) 232-7200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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