Reviews of the latest version of the new Disney musical Aida, which opened in Chicago on Dec. 9, have begun to reach the media. By far the most important notice yet to surface comes from Richard Christiansen, the venerable theatre critic of the Chicago Tribune. In his critique, he called the show "mixed -- the good, the bad and the what were they thinking?"
His highest praise went to star Heather Headley, who plays the title role. He labeled Headley "a star in the making." The production itself, however, he found only fitfully successful, both "beautiful and ... vulgar," with "spectacular scenes," yet "such a mess." Christiansen praised the set and lighting, while calling the costumes "kitschy."
Variety was more sanguine, praising "hip and spectacular visuals from Bob Crowley, dignified and deft direction from Robert Falls, and highly charismatic lead performances from Heather Headley and Sherie Rene Scott." The trade's main gripe was against Adam Pascal who, critic Chris Jones stated, "badly needs to find more moral gravitas and good old-fashioned charisma." Overall, the magazine though Aida would "do much better than many people expect."
Aida opened at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre, after nearly a month of previews beginning Nov. 12. The Elton John-Tim Rice musical, which intends to hit Broadway in spring 2000, stars Headley, Adam Pascal and Sherie Rene Scott. Robert Falls directs, Wayne Cilento is choreographer and Bob Crowley provided the scenic designs.
* Aida suffered a mishap on Nov. 13 when a stage accident halted weekend performances and resulted in minor injuries for two of the show's stars. Aida had just begun a pre-Broadway run when, in front of a stunned Chicago audience, a problem with the set during the show's final moments felled stars Headley and 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 two Sunday Nov. 14 performances were subsequently canceled.
Headley and Pascal returned to the show on Nov. 18.
* 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 will play in Chicago 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.
For tickets to Aida at Chicago's Palace Theater, call (312) 902 1500.