BWW Reviews: Ignite Theatre Presents a Solid Show and Passionate Performances in AIDA!
Ignite Theatre presents the Tony Award winning musical AIDA playing now through January 19th at the Aurora Fox Theatre. Based on the Verdi opera, AIDA is the story of the unlikely love triangle between Amneris, the Pharaoh's daughter, Radames, captain of the Egyptian army and Aida, an enslaved Nubian princess. As a forbidden love blossoms between Aida and Radames, the young lovers are between love, responsibility or death. A timeless star crossed love story that sets a shining example of true devotion that transcends the cultural differences of race and, ultimately, time itself.
I was impressed with Ignite Theatre's genius idea to transform the Aurora Fox Theatre into an inventive Egyptian exhibition with the authentic artifacts on loan from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and live actors modeling costume pieces from the period. This smart move immediately transported the audience into the iconic time period and put them in the mood for the show.
I have to say that this musical (by the dynamic duo of Sir Elton John and Tim Rice) is a tricky and challenging one. While the LION KING was nothing but big chorus musical numbers, AIDA is more reflective, introspective, and stripped down, and rests on the shoulders on the three main leads. One of the things that I picked up on right away was that this musical was begging for bigger numbers utilizing this talented ensemble and when they finally got their chance to shine in The Gods Love Nubia, they knocked it out of the ballpark with an impressive wall of sound and passion. I also have to compliment Ignite theatre for picking the talent needed to pull off these heavy, lead roles.
Besides the choreography of a couple of the songs (see below), the only tweaks that I would do to this excellent were both apparent in the second act. When Nehebka bravely stands up to the soldiers to protect Aida, I would have had her killed onstage or let out a blood curdling scream as she is killed offstage to add to the tension and building the intensity of the show. Also when Anmeris discovers the affair, I would have made it more obvious rather than have her as a shadowy figure behind the pyramid. Other than that, I and the audience thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful production. Outstanding musical numbers include - Every Story is a Love Story, My Strongest Suit, Dance of the Robe, Not Me, Elaborate Lives, The Gods Love Nubia, A Step Too Far, Easy as Life, Written in the Stars, and I Know the Truth.
Olivia James was a true star and tackled the challenging role of Aida and made it her own. her performance was so haunting and strong and I loved that she really brought out that inner conflict to follow her royal expectations or her heart. Her voice is so passionate and that completely came through in The Gods Love Nubia and Easy as Life. Alejandro Roldan as Radames came out of the gates swinging and impressed that audience with his amazing voice in Fortune Favors the Brave. He carried this dynamic character and the plot with ease and I also enjoyed his song, Not Me. I also enjoyed his duets with Aida; their chemistry was engaging and the blending was gorgeous that worked so well together in Elaborate Lives, enchantment Passing Through and Written in the Stars. Lindsey Falduto was simply marvelous as Princess Amneris and her voice is stunning. She totally rocked Every Story is a Love Story and played with the audience in My Strongest Suit. My only critique would be that I wanted more resentment, despisement, and bitterness exuding through in her climatic number, I Know the Truth (but she still sang the hell out of it). Mereb was the sarcastic sidekick with the heart of gold and that was perfectly played by Carlos Jimenez. This is a familiar role for this talented actor and he played the humor and the heart effortlessly. Anna High has a smaller role in this show as the enslaved Nehebka, but her strong performance was memorable. Her voice also shone through in The Gods Love Nubia. Alex Salinas was adequate as Radames' father, Zoser and I enjoyed his version of Like Father, Like Son. I do wish that he would have taken his character a bit further in his sinister ways and channeled a little bit of Mufasa in the role.
Director Keith Rabin went all out for this production and thought about the entire experience by adding the fascinating exhibit before the show thus enhancing and complimenting the production. I also have to give him high praises for picking three extraordinary lead actors that were able to carry the show with their strong voices and passionate performances. In addition he was able to make full use of the ensemble and the show flowed smoothly like the Nile River (tacky tie-in, but I had to). Musical Direction by Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Tyler Vaugn was excellent and they pushed their actors to raise their voices (which was especially enjoyed during The Gods Love Nubia) and the blending with the band was quite good. Stephanie Lynn Prugh is usually spot on with her choreography and I have thoroughly enjoyed her touch in previous shows, but unfortunately this production fell a little short. The dancing in the song, Another Pyramid was very choppy and a bit clumsy and I wished that she would have added more doo-wop, back-up singer movement to the song My Strongest Suit. She did; however completely redeem herself with her tribal and high energy choreography in the highlight number, Dance of the Robe. The talents of the production crew were really featured in this show with set design and construction by Mike Uhlenkamp, lighting by Tim Mack and sound by Tom Quinn. I was in awe of the translucent pyramid was illuminating and absolutely fabulous. I also appreciated the use of shadow play that added dimension to many scenes. I also enjoyed the construction of the riverfront, with the water-like visual effects that was inventive and added to the production. The costumes by Laura High were full of variety between the classes and transported everyone into the time period. I especially adored the fashion show during My Strongest Suit and Amneris's final iconic dress was stunning and another feature of the musical.
With a visually sensational and illuminating set, and the passionate performances of the actors, AIDA is another memorable and excellent show from the talented cast and crew of Ignite Theatre. AIDA is enchanting audiences now through January 19th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays with additional shows on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. The Aurora Fox Theatre is located at 9900 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, CO. For tickets or more information, contact Ignite Theatre by calling 720-362-2697 or online at www.ignitetheatre.com.
PHOTO CREDIT: Suzanne Simone Photography
Lindsey Falduto (Amneris), Olivia James (Aida), and Alejandro Roldan (Radames)
Olivia James as Aida and Ensemble
Alejandro Roldan (Radames), Lindsey Falduto (Amneris), and Olivia James (Aida)
Alejandro Roldan as Radames and Olivia James as Aida