Fiddlehead Theatre Company's fall production at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester is the smash hit musical "Aida" with the Tony and Grammy 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, closed on September 5, 2004 and ran for 1852 performances. The show is a true and passionate story of a love triangle between Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country, Amneris, an Egyptian princess and Radames, the soldier they both love. Directors Meg Fofonoff and James Tallach picked the best performers to play these roles with the helpful hand of musical director Balint Varga who obtains tremendous vocals from this cast in many different styles of music including rock, gospel, blues and pop ballads. The energetic choreography of Kira Cowan adds the finishing touches to this sensational musical, making it one of the must see shows of this season.
Meg and James block the show beautifully on the gorgeous two story set by Anthony Phelps. The breathtaking gorgeous costumes are by Stacey Stephens.Beautiful Ta'Nika Gibson tackles the role of Aida and makes it her own not only with her acting, singing and dancing prowess but with her regal bearing. She displays this powerful presence and is outstanding in all her scenes. Ta'Nika's splendid voice stops the show at the end of Act 1 in "The Gods Love Nubia" which is musically like "The Rose" and again in "Easy As Life'' in Act 2. The first song is when she and the chorus celebrate the beauty of her homeland with an exuberant dance and in the second when her father demands she leave Radames to show her love for her father and her country. "Easy as Life" stops the show like "And I'm Telling You" from "Dreamgirls." Ta'Nika's duets also soar in the beautiful ballads "Enchantment Passing Through", "Written in the Stars" and in "Elaborate Lives" with Gene Dante as Radames.
Gene is marvelous with a commanding presence in this role and possesses an awesome baritone voice which he displays in the belting rock number "Fortune Favors the Brave" as well as in the duets and in the poignant plea to Aida called "Radames Letter." The confrontation song with his father is another powerful moment when Radames opposes his father's evil intentions in "Like Father Like Son". Gene makes the transition from callous warrior to tender, understanding lover with ease. I first reviewed Gene as the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" for Fiddlehead back in 2004. Gene and Ta'Nika have wonderful chemistry together, making every moment count whether it be comic or dramatic. Another powerful song that opens Act 2 is by Ta'Nika, Gene and Christiana called "A Step Too Far" and is stunning with its three part harmony.
The third member of this triangle, Amneris is played marvelously by Christiana Rodi. 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. Christiana next appears as a bubbleheaded bombshell who is only interested in her wardrobe in "My Strongest Suit" which is a play on the word suit. It becomes a dynamic dance routine ala the Supremes with her doing some Tina Turner moves in it. Four of the girls and a couple of the guys model the new suits made by Aida while wearing very high heels. Christiana is hilarious until the character makes a dramatic turn in "I Know the Truth" when she discovers Radames love for Aida. Her handmaidens dress her in a wedding gown during this song which reminds you of Evita. The three leads in this show are dynamic, giving a strong foundation for their fellow performers to create a memorable and powerful musical. The lovable but mischievous slave of Radames, Merob is played wonderfully by Terrell Foster-James. He has an incredible tenor voice which is heard in "How I Know You" where he discloses that he knows Aida is a princess and in the fantastic quartet with Ta'Nika, Gene and Christiana called "Not Me." Terrell is the comic character who brings many laughs to the audience but later on shows his noble side to protect Aida. In "How I Know You" Terrell sounds like Judas in "Superstar". The sinister villain, Zoser is wonderfully played by Matthew Eamon Ryan. Zoser is secretly poisoning the Pharoah so his own son, Radames will become the leader of Egypt. Matthew's first number with his ministers is "Another Pyramid" which is chilling. They dance to it and his second number "Like Father Like Son" with Gene is excellent, too.
Janett Becky Bass plays Nehebka, a slave girl who sacrifices herself for Aida. She displays her powerhouse voice in "The Dance of the Robe" which is reminiscent of a "Joseph" number while they are chanting Aida. The Pharoah and the King of Nubia are played with regal bearing by Dallyn Vail Baylor and David J. Curtis.The chorus members do fabulous work with their singing and dancing throughout the show. Balint not only taught the cast the terrific songs but conducts a superb 10 piece orchestra. So for a magnificent rendition of this epic musical, be sure to catch Fiddlehead's rendition of "Aida" at the historic Strand Theatre in Dorchester. The Strand first opened at the end of World War 1 on November 11, 1918 and is a hidden gem of a theater. Run do not walk to the box office. Tell them Tony sent you.