Born Lisa Celeste Stroud, the Aida star known professionally as Simone will lead mourners at a funeral service in the South of France that is scheduled for Friday, April 25. According to Reuters news service, the ceremony will be held in a local Roman church in Carry-le-Rouet, where Nina Simone lived. The elder Simone’s hit songs included “My Baby Just Cares for Me” and a 1959 recording of the Gershwins’ “I Love You Porgy.”
A production spokesperson for Aida related that Simone will be out of the Broadway musical “indefinitely”; in her absence, her standby, Saycon Sengbloh, will play the lead role. Sengbloh has been seen in the national tours of Aida and Rent, and her regional credits include Jar the Floor, Dinah Was, Chess, Keep the Faith and Soweto! Soweto!.
Pop singer Toni Braxton, who made her Broadway debut in another Disney hit, Beauty and the Beast, is scheduled to begin her engagement as Aida June 30.
Aida — at the Palace Theatre — features a book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, sets and costumes by Bob Crowley, lighting by Natasha Katz, choreography by Wayne Cilento and direction by Robert Falls. The company currently features Adam Pascal as Radames and Felicia Finley as Amneris. Former Full Monty star Will Chase will replace original cast member Pascal in June. The Palace Theatre is located at Broadway and 47th Street, and tickets are available by calling the Disney hotline, (212) 307-4747. A Dutch language production of Aida opened in Amsterdam in the fall of 2001, and a touring company is currently making its way across the country. On Broadway, Aida plays Tuesdays at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM.