Aida – Drury Lane Theatre

Music by Elton Johnaida byelton john 7 tim rice

Lyrics by Tim Rice

Book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls

& David Henry Hwang

Directed and Choreographed  by Jim Corti

Music Direction by Ben Johnson

At Drury Lane Theatre

Stunning choreography and strong voices propel pop operetta

Director Jim Corti’s lavish production of John & Rice’s pop spectacle, Aida, is a mixed bag of tones and styles.  The use of futuristic plexiglass pyramids (designed by Jim Dardenne) – one large centered and two small moveable pyramids that distracted our focus and blinded us with reflections from the stage lights at times – hindered this production as it gave the production a cold and remote tone. This setting could be from a Star Trek episode.

aida at drury lance oakbrook theatre, by John & rice

Based on Verdi’s 19th Century Italian opera, Aida works as a pop/rock pastiche of contemporary music styles that becomes a rock operetta featuring a 70′s style score contains eclectic elements including reggae, Motown, gospel, Middle Eastern, and pop/rock. There are soaring ballads and love songs, strong anthems and striking dance rhythms. “The Gods Love Nubia” is a haunting gospel tune and my favorite song from the show.  The  show features a nice assortment of strong voices.

aida at drury lane theatre

Aida is a love story that finds an Egyptian officer, Radames (Jared Zirilli),  who is engaged to the Pharaoh’s daughter, falling in love with a Nubian slave – Aida (Stephan Umoh). When Radames finds out that Aida is really a Nubian Princess, he must choose between his country or his love.  This romantic tragedy features an assortment of vain and evil characters each plotting their own advantages in the Pharaoh’s court. Amneris (Erin Mosher) is the fashion conscious Pharaoh’s daughter promised to Radames. Zoser (Darren Matthias) is the plotting father of Radames who aspires  power. Mereb (James Earl Jones II)  is the Nubian slave and servant to Radames secretly loyal to Aida.

aida at drury lane theatre

My favorite voices from this production are from Erin Mosher and Stephanie Umoh both of whom nail their big ballads and anthems were rich emotions.  However, the production never has a heartfelt romantic tone. We don’t feel any sparks between Aida and Radames and we only see the coldly obnoxious side of Amneris. The romantic feel is lacking yet the vocals and the stirring music are strong. The show needs more heart and a deeper emotional core.  The visuals are stunning and the movement/dances are stylistic. The sum of the show is more than the individual elements. It is worth a look.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 24, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For full show information, go to Aida’s TheatreinChicago page.

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111, www.drurylaneoakbrook.com, tickets $35 – $40 – $45, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 pm & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2& 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through May 29, 2011