Will Disney have a celestial Aida? America will find out when Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, Elton John & Tim Rice's musical adaptation of the story, begins previews Sept. 17 for an Oct. 7 opening at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA.
Scheduled to run through Nov. 8, the world premiere musical is already "almost sold out up through Halloween (Oct. 31)," leaving only one week when tickets are still available, according to an Alliance box office spokesperson.
There has been one last-minute cast change. According to an Alliance spokesperson, the role of Amneris' hand maiden Nehebku, now called Hefnut, will be played by Jenny Hill. Hill replaces Mary Bentley-Lamar. No reason was given for the change.
Other Elaborate Lives roles include Zoser, a high priest and religious advisor to the princess, to be played by Rich Hebert. Also, Aida and Hefnut will be joined by one other hand maidens, Shu, acted by Pamela Gold. The cast of Elaborate Lives will number 28. The tale of Aida, made famous by Verdi's 1871 opera, concerns an enslaved Nubian 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.
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.
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.
Actor 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.
Elaborate Lives's first performance before an invited audience was a rocky one. On Sept. 12, the Disney-backed, Elton John-Tim Rice 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 a benefit performance Wednesday, Sept. 16, and its first official preview Thursday, Sept. 17.
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. Alliance spokesperson Stephanie Lee said there was no further information as to the nature of the plot or what approach to the classic tale librettist Linda Woolverton and composers John and Rice are taking.
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. 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.