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Theater review: Stellar performances earn A for ‘Aida’


There are times when the performances of the actors transcend the mediocre storyline of a play or musical, and Broadway by the Bay’s production of “Elton John + Tim Rice’s Aida” is one of those times. Even the rather grandiose name of this musical is peculiar. (“Aida: The Musical” sounds sufficient.)

Fortunately, director Jasen Jeffrey astutely found several seasoned actors who also have magnificent voices and who make this tedious, limp and oh-so-predictable script into something better than it really is.

The plot can be boiled down in a few sentences: The ever-conquering Egyptians capture some Nubian women (their long-time enemies) to use as slaves, also unknowingly detaining the Nubian princess. Later, they capture her father, the king. But Radames, captain of the Egyptian army, quickly develops a “thing” for the princess, though he doesn’t know she’s royalty.

Then a whole bunch of improbable things happen: Radames’ father Zoser is slowly poisoning the Pharaoh so that when his son marries the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris, Radames will take over. Poor Amneris! She and Radames have known each other since they were little kids and have been engaged for seven long years. But instead of marrying, Radames keeps rushing off to fight a war because … well, because the storyline requires him to wait until he meets the Nubian princess (in disguise) and fall madly in love with her.

Basically “Aida” is a hugely overblown (but sweet) love story that probably wouldn’t pass muster if it weren’t for the readily visible sincerity and passion of the actors who share this epic affection. Anyone who doesn’t get goose bumps watching husky hunk Shaun Leslie Thomas as Radames and beauteous, angel-voiced Raquel Nicole Jetè as Aida in their steamy love scenes must have ice water in their veins.

And that’s not even considering the poignant songs that sound like shear gossamer silk coming from Jetè’s commanding voice. She calls attention to that voice in “The Past is Another Land” at the beginning of the play, but it is Act 2’s “Easy as Life” that is a show-stopper. She and Thomas also have several moving duets, including “Elaborate Lives,” and probably the show’s most well-known song (there aren’t any others), “Written in the Stars.”

The delightful (and stunningly statuesque) Caitlin McGinty as Radames’ long-suffering fiancé Amneris captures all facets of this pivotal character down to a “spit-spot” turn of her fashionable heels. She projects a quirky sense of humor and deadpan face that endears her to the audience, not to mention that she’s comic gold because she stands about a head taller than her betrothed, Radames.

Another cast standout is Montel Anthony Nord as Mereb, Radames’ chief servant who has gained his trust, despite being Nubian. Nord adds a nimble touch, as his Mereb is a loyal friend to both his master and to his princess (he recognizes her after she’s captured). Aida cautions him not to share who she is with the other Nubian slaves, but he blabs it all over the place right away.

That’s …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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