The shaping and changing of Broadway's Aida continues in the weeks leading up to the show's official opening at the Palace Theatre, March 23. Even so, not all is positive on the creative front. As reported by the New York Post (Feb. 29) and confirmed by a spokesperson at the Boneau/Bryan Brown press office, composer Elton John stormed out of the Sunday, Feb. 27, matinee fifteen minutes into the show. "He objected to two pieces of incidental music he didn't like," the spokesperson told Playbill On-Line. "But he's coming back next week." The spokesperson couldn't say if or when the offending musical passages would be changed or stricken from the score. A production source told the New York Post that John found the techno-pop sound of two dance-music numbers "already dated."
An unnamed company member told the Post that John's early exit left a bad impression: "It was rude to the performers, rude to the audience and rude to everyone who has worked so hard to get the show to this point."
As for the show's continuing modifications, the book credit for Aida has already been revised with the New York bow; director Robert Falls and playwright David Henry Hwang now share credit with original book writer Linda Woolverton. Hwang was hired as a "creative consultant" shortly after the ill-fated, initial Atlanta production of the musical. Furthermore, a few changes have been made to the Elton John-Tim Rice score since Chicago. According to Newsday, Pascal has a new song, "Fortune Favors the Brave," and "Elaborate Lives," previously sung by Headley, has been reassigned to Pascal. The intention in these alterations is to further humanize the character of Radames.
Aida began previews Feb. 25, after concluding a two-month stint at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre Jan. 9. As in the Windy City, the musical stars Heather Headley, in the title role, as well as Adam Pascal and Sherie Rene Scott. Wayne Cilento is choreographer and Bob Crowley provided the scenic designs.
The show marks Falls' first work in New York after winning the 1999 Tony Award for directing Death of a Salesman. Falls made his initial reputation in Chicago, first as artistic director of the now defunct Wisdom Bridge Theatre, then as head of the Goodman Theatre. Among his landmark Second City productions have been a grandly rethought Hamlet and Galileo -- the latter being the first of a string of collaborations with actor Brian Dennehy that led to the Tony-winning Broadway revival of Salesman. Aida represents Falls' first musical in long memory, though he has directed many operas. Completing the 25-member cast of Aida are Tyrees Allen, Robert Armitage, Troy Allan Burgess, Franne Calma, Bob Gaynor, John Hickok, Kisha Howard, Tim Hunter, Youn Kim, Kyra Little, Kenya Unique Massey, Corrine McFadden, Phineas Newborn, Daniel Oreskes, Damian Perkins, Jody Ripplinger, Raymond Rodriguez, Eric Sciotto, Samual Thiam, Jerald Vincent, Schele Williams and Natalia Zisa.
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. Newly added in Chicago was Adam Pascal (Rent) as Radames. Tony winner Robert Falls took over as director in Chicago, replacing Robert Jess Ross; and acclaimed set designer Bob Crowley supplanted Stanley A. Meyer. Also part of the new Chicago team was choreographer Wayne Cilento.
Among Crowley's sets for the show 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 the designer's work on The Capeman.
The musical features the songs "Written in the Stars," "My Strongest Suit," "A Step too Far" and "Easy as Life."
Disney's Beauty and the Beast left Broadway's Palace Theatre Sept. 5 to make room for Aida's arrival. Beast reopened Nov. 12, at the Lunt-Fontanne.
Tickets for Aida range $25-$80. For information, call (212) 307 4747.