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July 17, 2012 > Theatre Review: Aida

Theatre Review: Aida

By Jessica Noel Flohr

What do you get when you cross an Italian opera with a little rock, reggae, and pop music? In a fun musical that tells a timeless tale of ill-fated lovers in a way that will lift your spirits. Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida is playing through the end of July at Stage 1 Theatre in Newark. This sensational Disney Broadway rock opera is sure to touch the heart of any musical fan.

The roots of this show are interesting to follow. It's an American musical written and composed by two Englishmen based on a classic Italian opera about an Egyptian love story. How's that for multi-cultural? The Broadway show was also based on a children's book interpretation of the original opera. Disney had plans for an animated film, which fell through. Years later, the musical has become an award-winning production, including two Tony awards and a Grammy.

The story begins in the Egyptian display of a museum. Patrons meander through statues and artifacts. Suddenly, one of the statues, that of Princess Amneris, springs to life and carries the audience in song back to ancient Egypt. Egypt and Nubia are at war and Egyptian soldiers have captured some of the Nubian women. The interest of young Radames, captain of the soldiers and fiance to Princess Amneris, is piqued by one of the Nubian maidens, a feisty maiden named Aida. Unbeknownst to him, Aida is the Princess of Nubia. A fateful tale of love, freedom, and duty ensues.

Although the musical jumps into action, it takes a bit to sink one's teeth into the storyline. Once it is revealed just who Aida is and each of the characters takes on more depth, the story becomes more intriguing. Aida and Amneris at first appear to be foils for one another. Amneris is incredibly shallow, singing to her handmaidens, "Forget the inner me; observe the outer. I am what I wear and how I dress." She foregoes conversation and intelligence in favor of a great wardrobe and accessories. As the story progresses, Amneris's character grows through a friendship with Aida, who was given to Amneris as a gift from Radames. Amneris, played by Stage 1 Theatre veteran Christi Wallace, has some fun lines, including a suggestion to Radames to chart the female form so that he might be enticed to explore!

Each of the three central characters matures over the two acts of the play. The changes in Radames are called into question when he has to choose between his father's political plans and his blossoming love for Aida. Aida must accept the duties of a Princess and save her people. Amneris overcomes her love of fashion and becomes a true queen.

The spine tingling moment of the show comes when Matty Gregg, playing Radames, and Ernestine Balisi, as Aida, sing an enchanting duet. This is the moment the audience realizes they have become invested in the story. The voices of these two talented actors will give one goose bumps! The lyrics demonstrate the timelessness of love: "We all lead such elaborate lives/wild ambitions in our sights/How an affair of the heart survives/Days apart and hurried nights/Seems quite unbelievable to me."

Stage 1 Theatre has a knack for quality community theater. Aida is a touching play that will help one remember what's most important in life, and provide a few laughs along the way. Come spend an evening or afternoon at Stage 1 and enjoy the show!

Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida
Sunday, July 22: 2:30 p.m.
Fri/Sat, July 20, 21, 27 & 28: 8:00 p.m.
Stage 1 Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287

Students 17 and Under: $10
Adults: $22
Senior and Advance Purchase: $20
Groups of 12 or more: $18 per person

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