Though a spokesperson for producer Disney Theatricals said no dates or venues have been settled, audition notices for the production say rehearsals are tentatively set for summer 1998 with a tentative Broadway opening in fall 1998.
Disney has been holding auditions for the show in various parts of the U.S., with New York auditions scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9 at Chelsea Studios on West 26th Street in Manhattan. Please see the Casting Calls section of Playbill On-Line for more details.
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.
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. John is a 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. He 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 reopened the New Amsterdam Theatre where Lion King is now playing.
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.
The audition notice specifies that Disney is 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.