New England Review: Star-Making Turn Lifts "Aida" at NSMT
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Direction by Stafford Arima
Musical direction by Andrew Graham
Choreography by Patricia Wilcox
Scenic Design by Bill Stabile
Costume Design by Randall Klein
Lighting Design by Kirk Bookman
Sound Design by John A. Stone
Cast in order of appearance:
Amneris, Janine LaManna
Radames, Brad Anderson
Aida, Montego Glover
Mereb, Derrick Baskin
Zoser, John Schiappa
Pharaoh, James Bodge
Nehebka, Q. Smith
Amonasro, J. Bernard Calloway
Performances: Now through November 21
Box Office: 978-232-7200 or www.nsmt.org
A powerful and compelling performance by Montego Glover as "Aida" is helping the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass., end its 2004 season on a high note. As adept at handling the fierce determination of a willful Nubian princess as she is at expressing the uncertainties of a young woman in love, Glover captivates her audience as quickly as her Aida charms the Egyptian army captain Radames.
Described as "the timeless love story," Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida" is more pop concert than Broadway musical. Their uneven score is a mixture of Egyptian, African and contemporary rhythms which vacillate between campy production numbers ("Another Pyramid" and "My Strongest Suit") and thematically repetitious power ballads ("Enchantment Passing Through," "Elaborate Lives," and "Written in the Stars"). A nice modern-day prologue and epilogue which establish the ancient love story as part of a museum tour guide's historical synopsis serve as touching and timeless counterpoints to the musical spectacle that unfolds. Other than the bit of romantic symmetry that this layering draws between two universes, however, the book is rather predictable and thin.
Yet, the scintillating performance by Glover elevates this production to a higher status than the material alone deserves. With tremendous sincerity and intensity, this stunning actress and singer transforms unremarkable songs like "The Past Is Another Land" and "Easy as Life" into bittersweet anthems to the tragedy that inevitably results when star-crossed lovers from an ancient time have to choose between duty and personal happiness. Glover shows us the maturity of a reluctant leader destined to sacrifice herself for her people in conflict with the romantic idealism of a Juliet who childishly dreams of escaping the realities of politics and war with her handsome Romeo at her side.