Egypt Unfinished: AIDA

Photo credit courtesy Fiddlehead Theatre Company/Matt McKee Photo

Presented by Fiddlehead Theatre Company
Presented at the Historic Strand Theatre
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang
Directed by James Tallach and Meg Fofonoff
Music directed by Balint Varga
Choreography by Kira Cowan

October 17 – 26th, 2014
The Strand Theater
543 Columbia Rd
Dorchester, MA 02125
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Fiddlehead Theater Company, in collaboration with Aids Action Committee, is proud to present AIDA. 5% of every ticket sold will go to Aids Action Committee.

Review by Danielle Rosvally

Dear Sir Elton John,

I have loved Aida since you first wrote it in 2000 and it took Broadway by storm. It has made me wish many things about myself: that I had the range to successfully best to belt out the craziness that is “My Strongest Suit” somewhere other than my shower so that I could be a part of your glittering romantic someday; that I was an Egyptian Princess so that I could have a wardrobe extensive enough to be sung about this way (….but only in the strictest cartoon sense of the term since being a real Egyptian Princess is a bit more complicated than romantic intrigue and Lady Gaga like clothing choices); or, failing all else, that I could at least appreciate a production which transported me to these places in my head with all the glimmering splendor which belongs to it.

Fiddlehead Theatre Company is doing a solid job with your show, though I do have a few complaints (none of which have anything to do with you). The three lovers (Christiana Rodi as Amneris, Gene Dante as Radames, and Ta’Nika Gibson as Aida) are being performed with gusto. They’re singing the hell out of your music. Rodi particularly struck me as stealing the show and taking it home with her; she’s got pipes that stretch until next week. Gibson seems to be a triple threat and brings some serious acting talent to the role (which, let’s face it, requires that kind of touch). She is at once powerful and helpless, brilliant and foolish, and everything your Princess ought to be. Dante is surprisingly powerful in his rakish ways, and reserves his roguish charm for the moments when it’s most effective. It’s a real shame that, at least during the performance I saw, rampant mic issues made it such that I could often only hear about half of what these leads were singing because their voices were either too quiet to be audible over the live orchestra, or overpowered by another actor onstage who had their mic turned to 11 at the wrong moment.

The cast is also dancing the hell out of it. There are some incredibly talented dancers in the ensemble (Ryoko Seta simply shines), but their synchronicity with each other and the music is just a tad off. This issue gives the piece an unfinished air; like perhaps the cast could have benefited from another week of rehearsal time.

The costumes are also a mixed bag. While some are simply gorgeous and perfectly suited to the characters wearing them (Amneris has a few choice dresses that are stunning and lovely, and the fashion show was a sight to behold), other moments it looks as though the costumer took a trip to Target to fill in the gaps. A few of the ensemble girls were wearing dresses that I swore came off the Walmart discount rack, and Amneris wears an unfortunate turquoise onesy when we first meet the character (especially odd due to her signature dexterity with dress). I honestly don’t know if the costumer ran out of time or money first and realized she needed many more outfits than she currently had….

There were also a few timing issues with lighting. Scenes were begun in half-blackout on occasion, and set changes at times occurred in enough light to make them awkward. Again, this might have been an opening night flub and one can hope that it will be ironed out over the course of the run.

These aesthetic issues were mostly forgivable. The key thing is this: their talent outshines the technical misfortune. The show is everything I’ve always wanted it to be, Sir Elton. All of your magically-woven, sparkling-entrenched, music and story-telling is absolutely on display at the Strand. You would be proud of the, Sir. You would be proud of them indeed.

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