Disney's latest musical theatre effort, Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, officially opens Oct. 7 at Atlanta, GA's Alliance Theatre. The show gave its first official preview on Sept. 17 and plans a run through Nov. 8, with a possible Broadway gig to follow.
Hank Stratton plays the male lead, Radames, in this new musical by the Lion King team of Elton John and Tim Rice. Their adaptation of the "Aida" story also features Heather Headley as Aida and Sherie Rene Scott as Princess Amneris.
Following the example of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, Disney has opted for relatively unknown actors, Headley -- the original Nala of The Lion King -- being the best known. Stratton's credits include Joey in Misalliance at Arena Stage, Ben in the 1994 Encores production of Lady in the Dark, and Witwoud in The Way of the World at Huntington Theatre Company.
Other Elaborate Lives roles include Zoser, a high priest and religious advisor to the princess, to be played by Rich Hebert, according to Alliance spokesperson Lee Davis. Also, Aida, a servant of Amneris, will be joined by two fellow hand maidens: Nehebka, played by Mary Bentley Lamar; and Shu, acted by Pamela Gold. Davis said the cast of Elaborate Lives numbers 28.
Actress Headley drew applause every night at the New Amsterdam Theatre with her impassioned delivery of the ballad "Shadowland." Prior to making her Broadway debut as The Lion King's main lioness, she understudied and performed the role of Sarah in Ragtime. Other credits include leading roles in Pippin, Dreamgirls, and And The World Goes 'Round. Scott appeared in the recent Broadway revival of Grease! as Marty. Her other roles include Martha in the La Jolla Playhouse production of Randy Newman's musical Faust in 1995, and, most recently, a turn as Maureen in the Broadway production of Rent.
The tale of Aida, made famous by Verdi's 1871 opera, concerns an enslaved African princess, Aida, and her doomed love for the captain of the Egyptian guard, Radames, who is in turn desired by Aida's royal mistress, Amneris.
As of Sept. 29, the musical's song list went as follows:
"Every Story Is a Love Story"
"Our Nation Holds Sway"
"The Past Is Another Land"
"How I Know You"
"My Strongest Suit"
"Night of Nights"
"Enchantment Passing Through"
"The Dance of the Robe"
"Our Nation Holds Sway" (reprise)
"A Step Too Far"
"Easy as Life"
"Like Father Like Son"
"The Gods Love Nubia"
"How I Know You" (reprise)
"Written in the Stars"
"I Know the Truth"
"Night of Nights" (reprise) "The Judgement" "I Know the Truth" (reprise)
"Every Story is a Love Story" (reprise)
Lives' first performance before an invited audience was a rocky one. On Sept. 12, the Disney-backed, Elton John-Tim Rice-Linda Woolverton musical gave a dress rehearsal before an invited crowd at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre. The show had to be stopped midway, however, when a technical malfunction incapacitated a large pyramid on stage, as first reported in InTheater. The event was not a preview and no tickets were sold.
"There were some technical problems with the pyramid," said Alliance spokesperson Stephanie Lee, "so rather than delay, we finished the show in concert fashion." According to Lee, the pyramid moves and opens up and is an integral part of the set. Two more invited dress rehearsals on Sept. 13 went without a hitch.
Elaborate Lives has been described as a more intimate show than Disney's previous efforts, Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, the latter staged by Robert Jess Roth, who now helms Elaborate Lives.
The musical's design team reads like "Beauty and the Beast II." Scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, lighting designer Natasha Katz, and hair designer David Lawrence are all veterans of the original Broadway production. They are joined by sound designer Steve C. Kennedy and musical and vocal director Paul Bogaev.
The Beauty and the Beast connection flows through the entire creative team. Librettist Woolverton did the screen and stage adaptations of Beast, and Matt West, also from Beast, is the choreographer.
Individual tickets are now on sale. Elaborate Lives does not have the option of an extension at the Alliance, said Davis. For information, call (404) 733-5000.