BWW Review: AIDA Dazzles in Hale Centre Theatre's New Home
Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA is the first production to grace the main stage of Hale Centre Theatre's spectacular new home--the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre at 9900 South Monroe Street in Sandy.
Opening night was a gala affair attended by donors, media, representatives of Disney Theatrical Productions and Music Theatre International, and other special guests, such as Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, and Broadway composer Jill Santoriello (A TALE OF TWO CITIES).
According to TAIT Towers--the internationally acclaimed live entertainment technology company responsible for the Centre Stage--the theatre is more advanced than any other venue in the world. This is evidenced by the sensory wonder Hale Centre Theatre's production of AIDA evokes.
AIDA (music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, and David Henry Hwang) is a hit Broadway musical based on the Verdi opera. Egyptian captain Radames is betrothed to the Pharaoh's daughter, Amneris, but when he meets the enslaved Nubian princess, Aida, he begins to doubt the course his life should take.
Kandyce Marie is fiery and emotional as Aida (double cast with Raven Flowers), and she has a gorgeous singing voice. GENTRI member Casey Elliott is strong and vulnerable as Radames (double cast with Zack Wilson). His vocals are sheer perfection, and his performance is endlessly watchable.
Additional highlights include the nuanced character development of Amy Shreeve Keeler's Amneris (double cast with Kelly-Hennessey Pulver) and the powerful vocal stylings of Jared Haddock's Zoser (double cast with Greg Hansen).
In the new venue, Hale Centre Theatre's signature ever-shifting stage has been enlarged and improved. A massive new fly system and LED screens have also been incorporated, in addition to more leg room for the audience. The combined effect of adding these elements is an enormous amount of empty space to fill above the stage, and the theatre's designers will need to continue working to find new ways to do so. Utilizing the fly system more often to supplement the scenery rising from the ground with additional scenery coming from above would make a world of difference.
Still, what they were able to accomplish for AIDA is not insignificant and is oftentimes downright dazzling. The combination of direction, lighting, costuming, and choreography make such disparate scenes as the joyous "My Strongest Suit" (complete with incredible aerial work) and the stirring "Dance of the Robe" (and especially the regal recessional that follows) both equally visually stunning, albeit in completely different ways.
Director Dave Tinney, lighting designers Michael Gray and Danna Barney, costume designer Jennifer Stapley Taylor, choreographer Jennifer Hill Barlow, and aerial choreographer Ramsi Nia Stoker have all created incredibly strong work here, as has set designer and technical director Kacey Udy. The detail that went into the scenery evoking ancient Egypt is astonishing and beautiful.
"We are a state with the slogan 'Life Elevated,'" Gov. Herbert said at the theatre's opening night gala. "There is nothing that elevates our lives more than the arts." And there are no better examples of this than Hale Centre Theatre, AIDA, and the productions that will light up the stages of the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre for generations to come.
AIDA plays through January 20, 2018. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Kandyce Marie (Aida), Casey Elliott (Radames), Amy Shreeve Keeler (Amneris)