What happens when a show's leading lady and both her understudies are unable to perform? The answer: Call Merle Dandridge. Such was the case this past weekend at Aida, the Disney hit at the legendary Palace Theatre. Aida's current title player, Simone — daughter of the famed chanteuse Nina Simone — was unable to perform this weekend due to an injury. Both her understudies, Maya Days and Schele Williams, were not able to cover the role, so the producers turned to Merle Dandridge, the young actress who understudies the lead role in the touring production of the Elton John-Tim Rice musical. Aida's spokesman, Chris Boneau, commented, "It really is a sweet story, and now we have another Aida who can play the role. Merle has played the role on the road when she understudied Simone. So, she actually replaced Simone but by way of several different cities."
Dandridge played four performances the weekend of March 8: Friday night, Saturday matinee and evening and Sunday matinee, before returning to the show's national tour. Dandridge, who made her Broadway debut in the recent revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, understudied the lead role of Mary Magdalene, who was portrayed by Maya Days, the current Aida standby. Such elaborate lives.
Simone, a former star of Broadway's Rent, returns to her role March 12. Aida opened at the Palace Theatre March 23, 2000, becoming Disney's third Broadway musical and its first not based on an existing animated movie. For tickets, call (212) 307-4747.