The AIDA Tour






• • NEWS & REVIEWS • •

THE PRODUCTION

"The principal performers are uniformly excellent, as are the projections, the scenic design, the lighting and overall production vitality."
-- Dayton Daily News

"With a modern touch, 'Aida' thrills the crowd."
-- Scranton Times Tribune

"Those who hold the tragic love stories of Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde close to their hearts will love AIDA."
--Reno Gazette-Journal

"This was a magnificent production that the audience rewarded with an unquestioned and spontaneous standing 'O'."
--The Daily Gazette - Schenectady, NY

"A successful pop-rock gospel update of the Verdi opera, Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA is a love triangle for the ages."
--Spokane Spokesman Review

"With big voices, big production numbers and a big set that add up to an audience-pleasing night on the town, the touring production of Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA received a standing ovation."
--The News Journal - Wilmington, DE

"The rock musical by Elton John and Tim Rice reverberates with a
restless African beat and intense, soaring vocals. A kaleidoscope of
brilliant lighting effects sets the stage on fire while an
ensemble of frenetic dancers fan the flames."

--Grand Rapids Press

"Judging by the applause and hoots, the rock score resonates
particularly well with 20-somethings. Perhaps a new generation
is about to capture theatre."

--Grand Rapids Press

"Powerful and moving." --Reno Gazette-Journal

"Big League Theatricals' touring version is splashy and vivid with sharp production values and strong voices throughout the cast."
--Champaign News Gazette

"Proctor's is a grand setting for the magnificent 'Aida'."
--The Daily Gazette - Schenectady, NY

"This version of AIDA brings a strong contemporary beat to the music, costumes and overall dynamic of the story."
--The Capital Times - Madison, WI

"Aida has tuneful Elton John melodies, plenty of top-quality performers, a striking set and brilliant lighting effects."
--Spokane Spokesman Review

"The music was excellent, and the colors, costumes, sets and choreography were dazzling to watch."
--The Capital Times - Madison, WI

"Inventively lit and designed, the scenes flow as in a dream."
--Charleston Post & Courier

"Sets by Neil Patel and lighting by Charlie Morrison were remarkable
for their imagination in creating spaces that passed fluidly into
the present, past and future."

--The Daily Gazette - Schenectady, NY

"The more quiet moments, which incorporated Middle Eastern and African movements, were beautiful."
--Reno Gazette-Journal

"John's melodies are full of surprises and invention."
--Spokane Spokesman Review


THE CAST

"Offering splendidly energetic and effectively staged performances were Marja Harmon, stunning in the title role, blonde and beautiful Leah Allers as Princess Amneris, a buff Casey Elliott as Radames, and an ensemble cast of scene-stealing actors and extraordinary dancers, trained to within an inch of their toenails. As directed by Daniel Stewart, every cast member emoted with the intensity we have come to expect in musical theater, giving us thrills to match Disney Land rides."
-- Charleston Post & Courier

"Marja Harmon rules the stage with a bluesy belt and such intensity that she seems to pull the notes out of the floor and send them flying to the ceiling."
--Grand Rapids Press

"Harmon, as Aida, was quite simply spectacular as the noble princess
turned into a slave. Her athletic singing voice compelled
Sunday afternoon's audience."

--The Daily Gazette - Schenectady, NY

"Marja Harmon delivers an intense and powerful performance as Aida. She is especially moving in 'Easy as Life' and in the exceptional act-one gospel tinged closer, 'The Gods Love Nubia'."
--Spokane Spokesman Review

"Marja Harmon is a force of nature as Aida, who has huge soaring songs that keep coming all night."
--Champaign News Gazette

"Casey Elliott, playing Radames, showed a solid voice that can handle both the gentle duets with Aida and the louder songs with more intense demands."
--Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

"As Radames, Elliott has great stage presence and a great voice."
--The News Journal - Wilmington, DE

"As an actor, Casey Elliott commanded the stage and also demonstrated remarkable passion."
--Spokane Spokesman Review

"As Amneris, Leah Allers was delightfully funny, delivering her witty lines with perfect timing and a beautiful singing voice."
--Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

"Leah Allers, as Amneris, displayed a flair for comedy in 'My Strongest Suit' and an understanding of pathos in the meltingly heartbreaking 'I Know the Truth'."
--The Daily Gazette - Schenectady, NY

"As Amneris, Leah Allers is dead on. In the beginning, she is a princess
in the pop culture notion of the term. But in the end, her self-obsession
is replaced by a decisive royal presence."

--Knoxville News Sentinel

"Leah Allers' Amneris, the spoiled princess, is a real highlight going from her fizzy ode to fashion, 'My Strongest Suit', to her more substantial wake-up call, 'I Know the Truth', without missing a beat."
--Champaign News Gazette

"The ensemble members, many of whom have Alvin Ailey dance backgrounds, were incredibly nimble and well-trained."
--Spokane Spokesman Review



FULL REVIEWS


'Aida' is a musical for those hopelessly romantic types

By Merrie Leininger, Reno Gazette-Journal
March 18, 2007

Those who hold the tragic love stories of Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde close to their hearts will love "Aida." The musical opened its three-day run at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Reno on Friday night to a packed house of romantics who gave the cast a standing ovation at the end of the 2 1/2 hour performance.

The touring company features Marja Harmon, who has the bearing to pull off the starring role as a Nubian princess who has been captured by a Egyptian captain named Radames (Casey Elliott). While she keeps her noble birth a secret, Radames can immediately see there is something special about Aida. (Or as the old man next to me whispered to his wife: 'She's something else!')

Radames is fascinated by her strength when she attempts to save her friends, who were also captured, by taking a solider hostage. He gives her as a gift to the Egyptian princess, Amneris (Leah Allers), who is a childhood friend with a major crush on the captain.

Aida immediately impresses Amneris with her poise and knowledge and they become close, despite Amneris' shallowness and selfishness.

"Forget the inside," Amneris sings in a fun dance number/runway show with Motown-style backup singers, "I am what I wear and how I dress."

Amneris' dreams come true when her ailing father announces that she will marry Radames in seven days. Meanwhile, every time the new slave, Aida, runs into her captor in the palace, their attraction becomes more clear to both of them.

Radames tries to shake off his inappropriate feelings for a slave and goes to Amneris' chambers, but Aida is there and he leaves without making love to Amneris, much to her frustration. "If the royal cartographer drew you a map of the female body, would you be more inclined to go explore?" she pouts.

Despite these wonderfully silly moments with Princess Amneris, the play is powerful and moving, especially as the second half rushes to its sad conclusion. Allers, who plays Amneris, has a strong voice that is clear with a wide range and she makes the most of it, while not going overboard.

The more dramatic parts do tend to cross over into melodrama, but not too often. And it served its purpose because the whole audience was hushed and caught up in the lovers' fate in the final moments.

The ensemble cast is strong -- all have great voices and many of them are great dancers. The dancers not only leapt and twirled during the big songs, but also took the stage between each scene, I imagine to give the starring actors time to change costumes. Some of the big numbers seemed more appropriate for an 1980s Paula Abdul video, but the more quiet moments, which incorporated Middle Eastern and African movements, were beautiful.

The last couple of scenes do away with everything except the two lovers. Aida and Radame quietly face their deaths in the dark and promise to find each other in their next lives. And then, in a flash to the future, we see that they do.




'Aida' a great story about tragic love affair
The Elton John and Tim Rice musical made its area debut at the Schuster Center on Tuesday.

By Terry Morris, Dayton Daily News
February 1, 2007

DAYTON - Classic musicals and revivals have their place, but there's a special excitement to a well-executed touring musical that isn't just a distant Broadway memory.

Aida, the Elton John and Tim Rice show about a woman and man from clashing cultures who die for their love, is out of the ordinary.

Brimming with vocal and visual splendor, it opened Tuesday night at the Schuster Center for the first time.

Set in ancient Egypt, but rippling with contemporary movement and attitudes, it unfolds from a museum exhibit to tell a story about how power isn't nearly as compelling as love for a Nubian princess, and Egyptian general and a Pharaoh's daughter.

The principal performers are uniformly excellent, as are the projections, the scenic design, the lighting and overall production vitality.

As Aida, Marja Harmon demonstrates clearly in the Act 2 song Easy as Life why the show is named for her character.

Casey Elliott sometimes seems to be channeling Adam Pascal, who played the role on Broadway, but he doesn't need to imitate anyone as Radames. Leah Allers not only sings beautifully as Amneris, she's convincing as a woman who evolves from spoiled rich shopaholic to discarded lover and worthy leader.

They're more than ably supported by others including Dayton native Ebony Blake as Nehebka, who will sing the role of Aida tonight.




Proctor's a grand setting for the magnificent 'Aida'

By Carol King, The Schenectady Daily Gazette
November 27, 2006

SCHENECTADY -- Proctor's Theatre was festooned for the holidays this past weekend, with garlands of winter greenery and festive twinkling lights, and the event that took place there was every bit as grand as the 80-year-old building itself. "Aida," based on Guiseppe Verdi's opera as adapted by Elton John and Tim Rice, was presented for two performances, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

The production follows the story of the original fairly closely. Timeless themes and characters remain, but dialogue, by Linda Wolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, along with John's wonderful tunes and Rice's lyrics, bring this version into the 21st century.

The title character is a beautiful Egyptian slave (Marja Harmon) who is really the daughter of the Nubian king. She has been captured by an Egyptian soldier, Radames, sensitively played by Casey Elliot, who falls in love with her. The problem is that the countries are at war. To bedevil Radames even further, he is loved by the pharaoh's daughter Amneris (Leah Allers) and a marriage has been arranged between them.

These three characters are at the root of the story that explores not only the horrors of war but the question of who are the "we" and who is the "other." Aida refuses to be the other even though she is in Egyptian territory. "The water is a different color where you live," Radames tells her. "No," she responds pridefully, "it is different where you live."

As in any good anti-war story, the play also explores the wisdom of national pride taken to the extreme. But it is first and foremost a love story, a story of star-crossed lovers, and that is the play's haunting center.

Harmon, as Aida, was quite simply spectacular as the noble princess turned into a slave. Her athletic singing voice compelled Sunday afternoon's audience in numbers such as "The Past is Another Land" and "Easy As Life." She and Elliot gave gorgeous life to "Elaborate Lives." Leah Allers, as Amneris, displayed a flair for comedy in "My Strongest Suit" and an understanding of pathos in the meltingly heartbreaking "I Know the Truth."

Talented Performers
Of the large talented ensemble, Dane Harrington Joseph stood out as Aida's fellow Nubian, Mereb, who, though enslaved by Egypt's government, was still a loyal Nubian at heart. His rendition of "How I Know You" was passionate and thoroughly engaging.

Amonasro, ably played by Edward C. Smith, is the Nubian king, Aida's father, and though his role is small, this is no "small" actor. He gave majesty to his part, even as he condemned Aida's love for an Egyptian. DJ Rudd was appropriately and often wittily sinister as Redames' evil father.

Sets, by Neil Patel and lighting by Charlie Morrison were remarkable for their imagination in creating spaces that passed fluidly, thanks to tons of dry ice, into the present, past and future. This was a magnificent production that the Sunday afternoon audience rewarded with an unquestioned and quite spontaneous standing "O."




Rock opera stepchild of the '60s

By Carol Furtwangler, Charleston Post & Courier
November 15, 2006

If you long for the splash, sizzle and style of New York's autumn theater season, you need travel no farther than North Chuck.

Filled to capacity Tuesday night, the Performing Arts Center's Best of Broadway series presented Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida."

Based on the ancient story, this current incarnation opens in the present, then dissolves to ancient times, returning to present day only at the curtain - or so says the author's note.

Inventively lit and designed, the scenes do flow as in a dream, but the juxtaposition of ancient and modern worked only part of the time.

While we had museum pieces of Egyptian artifacts, a head dress or two, flowing gowns a la Salome and leather-like half skirts on some men, sprinkled throughout were also soldiers armed with guns, men in black from fedora to boot, and a dizzying fashion show of gold lame.

The music, provided by an excellent pit orchestra directed by Daniel Bailey, incorporated some rhythmic drumming, but this production is clearly a kind of rock opera stepchild of the '60s, whence came both Sir Elton and Tim Rice.

Offering splendidly energetic and effectively staged performances were Marja Harmon, stunning in the title role, blonde and beautiful Leah Allers as Princess Amneris, a buff Casey Elliott as Radames, and an ensemble cast of scene-stealing actors and extraordinary dancers, trained to within an inch of their toenails. As directed by Daniel Stewart, every cast member emoted with the intensity we have come to expect in musical theater, giving us thrills to match Disney Land rides.




Rock-scored 'Aida' scores well

By Sue Merrell, The Grand Rapids Press
September 27, 2006

Aida, the rock musical by Elton John and Tim Rice, reverberates with a restless African beat and intense, soaring vocals. A kaleidoscope of brilliant lighting effects sets the stage on fire while an ensemble of frenetic dancers fan the flames.

In the title role, Marja Harmon rules the stage with a bluesy belt and such intensity that she seems to pull the notes out of the floor and send them flying to the ceiling. She's well-matched with Casey Elliott as Radames. He has a great voice that can be soft and tender in a love letter or screaming crazy in "Not Me" or "A Step Too Far."

Leah Allers, as Amneris, keeps pace with her co-stars, too. She starts out as a flighty, fashion-obsessed Valley Girl boppin' with her backup singers to "My Strongest Suit." But her comic role grows with great sensitivity to "I Know the Truth," one of the show's most touching numbers.

Judging by the applause and hoots, the rock score resonates particularly well with 20-somethings. Perhaps a new generation is about to capture theater.




'Aida' lights up the Landmark

By Celia Wren, Richmond Times-Dispatch
October 26, 2006

"Aida" pulses with rock-concert lighting in crayon-bright colors, imparting a contemporary quality to the tale of star-crossed love in the land of the Pharaohs.

Words and songs unfurl on a modernistic set suggestive of an upscale museum, with sculptures of Egyptian gods gliding onstage now and again to evoke different sections of a palace.

Geometric lights that zoom onto the backdrop also provide a sense of movement. There's abundant room for Sarita Allen's choreography, with its showily exotic vamping.

Harmon is steely as Aida, and she sure can let those ballads rip.










Musical REVIEW:
Aida told as love story with a twist


By Michelle Parks, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
September 14, 2006

FAYETTEVILLE - Aida is a love story with heart-felt passion and intense jealousy. The show's current national tour made its first stop Tuesday night at the Walton Arts Center. More performances continue through Sunday afternoon, before the cast and crew embark on the rest of their 85-city, seven-month tour.

The production features music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, their first collaboration since The Lion King. The songs encompassed a range of styles, including upbeat pop tunes and soaring ballads. The musical is based on the story told in an 1871 opera. This version is a love story with a twist.

It starts with the performers as visitors to an art gallery's exhibit of Nubian artifacts. Then, they freeze while Amneris, an Egyptian princess from the past, sings from a balcony. The story quickly moves into another time, with Egyptian explorers returning home.

One of the pharaoh's soldiers, Radames, plucks Aida from a group of Nubian slaves as a gift to Amneris. Amneris, the pharaoh's daughter, is in love with Radames.

However, Radames soon falls in love with Aida, and the love triangle - or pyramid - is born. He doesn't know Aida's the daughter of Nubia's king.

In the meantime, Radames ' father slowly is poisoning the pharaoh so his son can wed the princess and take over as Egypt's ruler.

As Aida, Marja Harmon demonstrated her amazing voice, from sweet, soft ballads to a powerful spiritual. Casey Elliott, playing Radames, showed a solid voice that can handle both the gentle duets with Aida and louder songs with more intense demands.

As Amneris, Leah Allers was delightfully funny, delivering her witty lines with perfect timing. Her character marveled at her gift of Aida, “a slave who knows her fabric.”
With a beautiful singing voice, Allers heralded the virtues of being well-dressed in “My Strongest Suit,” a fun, rock 'n' roll tune reminiscent of “Crocodile Rock.” There's even an Egyptian thread count joke.

There were spurts of serious dancing in the two-act, two-hour production. The mixture of costumes from various time periods - including blue jeans and trench coats - seemed to emphasize the love story's timeless aspect.

The stark stage was framed by shiny, silver walls that performers used to access the stage. The neutral set transformed easily from art gallery to various rooms of the Egyptian palace.

One of the best songs was “The Gods Love Nubia,” a moving spiritual that ended the first act. Harmon slowly started the song, her voice strong but soft. She got louder and louder, as the 20 voices around her gradually joined hers, layer upon layer, and built up to a powerful finish.

By the end, that visit to the art gallery isn't as simple as it once seemed.


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Last Update: May 3, 2007


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