In front of a stunned Chicago audience Saturday evening, Nov. 13, a set mishap during the final moments of a performance of Disney's Aida felled stars Heather Headley and Adam Pascal. According to an eyewitness report, while the two actors were being conveyed in a suspended boxlike "tomb" at the climax of the show, the set piece broke from its support and plunged approximately 8 feet to the stage.
A Nov. 14 press release from the show's publicist stated that Headley and Pascal sustained minor injuries and were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for examination. Both were released from the hospital a few hours later.
The statement also announced that the two Sunday Nov. 14 performances of Aida had been cancelled. Patrons with tickets for either cancelled performance can exchange their tickets for another performance on any Sunday through Thursday through Jan. 9, 2000. For more information on these exchanges, call (312) 409-2900.
Performances are scheduled to resume Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 PM.
The Disney adaptation of the Aida tale had just begun a pre-Broadway run at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre en route to a Broadway opening March 23, 2000. Embracing and crouched in the set piece during a musical number, Headley and Pascal registered alarm when the platform on which they were performing broke away. Following impact, the two actors appeared to remain conscious, rolling forward into a fetal position. Because the actors were situated near the front of the stage, the curtain was not lowered; a black scrim was instead placed between them and the audience.
Over the public address system, a stage manager asked for a doctor to step forward while requesting that the audience vacate the auditorium. Several doctors approached the stage, but it took several minutes before shocked theatregoers began to rise from their seats.
Chicago fire department trucks pulled up to the Cadillac Palace Theatre minutes later, and Headley, wearing a neck brace, was seen taken away in a stretcher; Pascal was also transported to nearby Northwestern Hospital. Backstage reports indicated that the two actors were able to converse with cast and crew members following the accident.
This Elton John-Tim Rice stage version of the Aida tale has been plagued by set problems. An earlier incarnation debuting at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 1998 suffered repeated glitches with its pyramid set piece. The sets for the revamped Chicago-Broadway production are by noted set designer Bob Crowley (Carousel, Twelfth Night).
The second coming of Aida, the new Disney musical, began previews at Chicago's Palace Theatre on Nov. 12. The show will play there until Jan. 9, 2000, after which it will move to New York's Palace Theatre on Feb. 23, for a March 23 opening.
The new Aida is vastly different from the production which opened at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Oct. 7, 1998. Of that show's stars, only Heather Headley, as Aida, and Sherie Rene Scott, as Amneris, remain. New is Adam Pascal (Rent) as Radames. Tony-winner Robert Falls is the piece's new director, taking over from Robert Jess Ross; and acclaimed set designer Bob Crowley has replaced Stanley A. Meyer. Also part of the new team is choreographer Wayne Cilento. Playwright Henry David Hwang has worked on the book of the show as a "creative consultant." Original bookwriter Linda Woolverton remains with the show.
Several of Crowley's stunning designs for Aida were revealed recently at a Disney presentation at the New Amsterdam Theatre intended to drum up group sales. Among the sets are a backdrop for Aida's native Nubia, in which the work "Nubia" is spelled out in letters several feet high, and a perspective-twisting backdrop of a David Hockney-like swimming pool, reminiscent of Crowley's work on The Capeman.
The presentation also featured several of Cilento's dances and stars Pascal, Headley and Scott singing the songs "Written in the Stars," "My Strongest Suit," "A Step too Far" and "Easy as Life."
Falls is not known for his work with musicals, though he has directed several operas. He has made his reputation with grandly rethought stagings of classics such as Hamlet and Galileo, and was recently promoted to the front tier of American directors by winning a Tony for the Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman. Other credits include Horton Foote's The Young Man from Atlanta and Eric Bogosian's subUrbia.
Headley came to industry attention playing Nala in The Lion King; Scott appeared in Broadway's Rent and in Kander & Ebb's new tuner Over & Over in Washington DC. Pascal is best-known as the original Roger in Rent.
Aida's debut at Atlanta's Alliance suffered mixed reviews and technical problems concerning its central set piece, a large pyramid. Following the play's Atlanta run, Disney dismissed much the creative team, including director Roth and set designer Meyer.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast left Broadway's Palace Theatre Sept. 5 to make room for Aida's arrival. Beast reopens Nov. 12, at the Lunt-Fontanne.
For tickets to Aida at Chicago's Palace Theater, call (312) 902 1500.