Friday, September 23, 2005

Aida at Bus Barn Stage Company

When Aida opened on Broadway, despite its enormous success, and the Tony Award for Best Musical, it was generally panned by most of the critics. I didn't see the show on Broadway, but I suspect that the reason it was so hated by the critics is that it was "Disneyfied". From what I've read it seems that the Aida was staged as a replica of the majority of the Disney animated films: silly, slapstick, and shallow.

Barbara Cannon and her creative team including Michael Spector (co-director), Michael Langham (musical director) and Shannon Stowe (choreographer), have created the Aida that I suspect Sir Elton John and Mr. Tim Rice intended. The directors cast the lead roles perfectly. Aida the Nubian princess, played by Jennifer Oku, is magnificent. Her vocal range, purity of sound, coupled with her ability to switch from operatic grandiosity to sweeping rock vocals sent chills down my spine. Robert Brewer plays the role of Radames, the Egyptian warrior-prince. Mr. Brewer exudes the power and virility required in the role and his singing and acting are flawless. Together, Brewer and Oku show a touching multi-layered understanding of love, responsibility and personal sacrifice. Jason Arias' as Mereb will make you laugh out loud. His comic timing and vocal artistry are excellent. Keite Davis as Amneris, displays her comic witt, her beautiful voice, and the depth of character required for the role.

Shannon Stowe has staged some truly sublime moments through intriguing dance and movement. She uses the talents of her dancers, particularly Michael Saenz and Lori Martinez, very well. Mr Saenz is a very gifted dancer. I hope he doesn't up and move to New York.

The rest of the cast is magnificent as well. Tomas Theriot as Zoser deftly plays the power and Machiavellian intent of his character. Shane Osbourne as Amonosro is a commanding presence in his short but very memorable scenes. John Aney as Pharaoh combines the fact that he is dieing and his diminishing power as king with excellent acting agility.

Aida runs through October 1. Don't miss it.

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