Disney Theatricals' Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Elton John and Tim Rice's new musical based on the Aida story, will have its world premiere in September 1998 at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Playbill On-Line has learned.
A Broadway production could follow, Peter Schneider, president of Disney Theatricals, told Playbill On-Line. But he said no dates or theatre will be chosen "until we see what we have in Atlanta." Audition notices for the show have said a Broadway opening was tentatively planned for the 1998 99 season.
Several titles had been considered for the story of a doomed love triangle among royalty and a beautiful slave girl in ancient Egypt; Elaborate Lives reportedly was settled upon just days ago.
The Atlanta production will begin previews Sept. 11, open Oct. 7 and run through Nov. 1 at Alliance's 800-seat Mainstage.
Two surprises: * Schneider described Elaborate Lives as an "intimate" musical, somewhat smaller in scale than Disney blockbusters The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, with a cast of 25 instead of 50. He said, "Where Beauty and the Beast and Lion King were visually spectacular, [Elaborate Lives] will be about the text and the music. We are looking for something very different: a more intimate kind of musical."Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King currently occupy two of the largest theatres on Broadway, the Palace and the New Amsterdam, respectively.
* Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Kenny Leon told Playbill On-Line that Elaborate Lives will deal with grown-up themes: "It's an adult show, but I think it will be fine for 9-10 on up. It's not geared to 4- and 5-year-olds. It's designed as adult theatre for adults, but there will be nothing offensive to the entire family."
Schneider said Disney chose Atlanta because the company had been looking to develop the project at a resident theatre, and had been impressed with Alliance's production of Pearl Cleage's Blues for an Alabama Sky.
Leon said Elton John, who has a home in the Atlanta area, has been a benefactor of Alliance since he made a $10,000 donation to support the Atlanta premiere of Angels in America four seasons ago.
Linda Woolverton, who did the screen and stage adaptations of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, is writing the musical's libretto, basing it on the children's-book version of the opera which was written by Leontyne Price.
Director Robert Jess Roth, who was Tony-nominated for Beauty and the Beast, will helm the new musical, and his choreographer again will be Matt West.
John & Rice have been at work on the project for at least two years. Based on the same basic story as Giuseppe Verdi's opera, the new musical will also follow the story of Aida, a beautiful Ethiopian princess being held as a slave in Egypt, who falls in love with Radames, the handsome captain of the Egyptian guard. It happens that Radames is also beloved by Aida's mistress, Amneris. The passionate triangle results in grief and death in the opera. It will be interesting to see how Disney will handle the same material. Elaborate Lives reportedly will keep that triangle with those same character names. John & Rice reportedly have completed 19 songs for the score.
Schneider said the story "will still be about the loves of three peoples and will still be set in Egypt." The Egyptian principals will be cast with white actors; the Nubian Aida will be black. The supporting cast will be multi racial.
As for the opera's familiar tragic ending, Schneider said, "They might get buried alive, they might not. It's one of the things we'll decide. As we develop the project, many things will get clearer and clearer. We'll probably change things nine times. "
Elton John is the pop artist who, with Bernie Taupin, composed such tunes as "Daniel" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." His "Candle in the Wind,"adapted as a tribute to Britain's Princess Diana, is the biggest selling single ever. The handwritten lyric sheet was sold at auction for $442,500 Feb. 11 in Beverly Hills, CA. John and Rice won an Oscar for the song Can You Feel the Love Tonight from the animated film version of The Lion King
Lyricist Rice's credits include Chess and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Rice also wrote additional lyrics for Broadway's Beauty and the Beast and won an Oscar with B&B composer Alan Menken for their score to the animated film Aladdin. With Menken, he also wrote lyrics for King David, which in May 1997 reopened the New Amsterdam Theatre where Lion King is now playing.
The audition notice have specified that Disney was seeking "strong male and female dancers of all ethnicities who sing. African dance and hip-hop are a major plus. Should have extensive modern dance and ballet training. We are specifically seeking dancers from ethnic minorities."
The musical seems to be going the Rent route, in that the producers are looking beyond the usual stable of Actors' Equity performers.
Subscriptions for the Alliance season are now on sale at (404) 733-4600. For the Mainstage, including Elaborate Lives: $70 - $180. Leon said subscribers would get first crack at tickets; single tickets will go on sale sometime in the next three months.