Wednesday August 23rd 2017

“AIDA”

When one hears that “AIDA”, the epic “rock musical” written by Elton John and Tim Rice, is coming, there is a stir of excitement and anticipation in that person’s mind. Here is a Tony Award winning show that brought out a different Elton John and proved that Tim Rice did not need Sir Andrew to be successful. Now, true, this show needs no dance, but the creative juices of a Jim Corti, find a way to make it fit and an added something special. Corti and his staff have put together a delightful and very talented cast to tell this story of conflict between lovers who are torn apart and meet one another through war. Based on Giuseppe Verdi’s Italian opera of the same name, the pop-rock score by John and Rice is a composition influenced by the music of   the Middle-East,Africa and some India and perhaps a little Pakistani.

The story itself is about the territorial battle between Egypt and Nubia in Africa. Egypt has taken most of Nubia and has enslaved their health inhabitants after ravaging and torturing the rest. Captain Radames ( deftly handled by Jaren Zirilli, who overcame a difficult microphone problem on opening night with no hesitation at all, allowing his character to stay intact and to keep the flow of the show as directed)  who is engaged to marry the Pharaoh’s daughter, Amneris ( played with just the right touch by Erin Mosher) who is dying, which would move him into position to become the leader of the land, captures many Nubian’s, one of which turns out to be the daughter of King Amonasro ( Bruce A Young), Aida ( the beautiful and talented Stephanie Umoh, who has a wonderful voice and looks very comfortable onstage). Radames and Aida have some chemistry and he makes her the personal slave of his betrothed so that she will be in a safe environment. From this point, we see what forbidden love can cause between not only the lovers themselves but to those who must live with and around them. This is a story of power , greed, love , destiny and faithfulness that starts off in a museum as spectators gather to see the tomb where Aida and Radames were buried alive because of their relationship and then we go back to the history as the opening number takes us to “Every Story Is A Love Story” ( smartly done by Ms Mosher). When they are entombed, they say that if there is an afterlife, they will find each other no matter how hard or long they must search and a sthe finale is sung, the milling observers of the tomb begin to spread thinner, leaving us only with a young man and a young woman and a sthe lights dim down, it appeas that the vow they made has indeed come to reality.

This is a brisk, well acted production with very little set ( Jim Dardenne who also handles the projections) and instead of a tomb in a galled off area, they used a pyramid formed glass that divided into two sections and turned this way and that. While I found this a very cool way to indicate the tomb, I found it overused and in some cases, an obstacle to my concentration as when it moved, it hit the lights and reflected in a way that caught my eye and took my concentration off the marvelous talent on the stage at Drury Lane. I don’t know if this can be fixed, but if so, it can only make a good production, brilliant! Earlier I mentioned that this is a talented cast, but I want o make sure that you know who these people are-

Mereb, the Nubian who almost beomes Egyptian, but of course, is always Nubian is  played by the always reliable James Earl Jones II, who can sing and adds a great comic touch. Pharaoh is played by Nicholas Foster, Zoser , the greedy dad of Radames, who will do anything for power, even if it his son that gains it, is played with great evilness by Nicholas Foster and Nehebka, the Nubian who gives her life for her Princess ( and has a great voice as well) is played by Donica Lynn. As my loyal readers know, a musical of this magnitude cannot succeed without a strong ensemble and this show has just that dancers and actors who can sing; singers who can act; actors who can dance- am I missing anything? No, they are hard working people who love to make a show happen, so thanks to:

Melanie Brezill, Karen Burthwright,Brandon Chandler,Robert Cornelius, Stephane Duret,Michael Glazer,Monique Haley,Pia Hamilton, Pegah Kadkhodaian,Jarrett Kelly,Adriana Parson, Todd Rhoades,Jaquez Sims, Brandon Springman,Eleho Temuru,Grant Thomas,Peer Vandivier and Natlaie Willimas.Also, great work of the  eight musicians under the expert leadership of Ben Johnson who takes this music to a whole new level. Ths is not typical musical fare as the mixture of music is Pop,Reggae,Motown, some glorious Gospel sounds and of course the tribal sounds of the mid-east and tribal sounds of “Rock-n-Roll”. If you have not seen “AIDA” before, you are in for a theatrical experience. If you have seen the original or one of the road companies, you will find that Corti’s version will rekindle the fire that grew in your heart from the original. I urge you to try and see this one as I know it will get better as they continue to do their 8 shows a week, through May 29th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.,Fridays at 8:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.,Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. with tickets priced from  $35 – $46 ( a bargain for theater of this quality and with free parking , no less. Besides that, if you truly want a bargain enjoy lunch or dinner packages which range from $49.75 to $68 ( so for $14.75 you can get a first class meal) WOW! To top that off ,student tickets start as low as $20 and seniors as low as $29 and for a matinee lunch package $43.75- double WOW!!

The theater is located at 100 Drury Lane in Oak Brook ( just north of Oakbrook shopping center) with loads of free parking. To order your tickets call the box office at  630-530-0111, call Ticketmaster at 800-475-3000 or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com

ENJOY!

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