Aida By Elton John and Tim Rice
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Starring Desiree Perez, Adam McCabe, and Krystal Gillette
Greater Orlando Actors Theatre at the Orlando Shakespeare Center

It’s an opera – it’s a pop concert – its two shows in one! On a busy day in the Egyptian wing, sparkly green lights transport the visitors to anachronistic Egypt in the Umpteenth Dynasty. Radames (McCabe) just returned from scouting Nubia where he captured a chorus of hot slave girls including royal Aida (Perez). They sing nicely and sending them to the copper mines seems a waste, so Radames offers Aida to his clothes horse fiancee Amnersis (Gillette.) She’s Pharaoh’s (Richard Betts) daughter and Radames’ dad Zoser (Ian Clark) uses the marriage to eliminate the old guy and rule the world all the way to Sudan. But when McCabe falls for Perez, plans changes and the lovers must die while breathing glorious arias on their death beds. The good news – the songs are full of 1970’s pop sensibility, they’re sung in English, and no one has to fall on their sword to hit a high ‘C”.

It’s an ambitions show with an extravagant costumes and surprisingly long scene changes for the minimal set. Perez’s voice steals the show, with strong solos (Easy as Life,) solid duets with McCabe (Elaborate lives) and the lively the ensemble gospel number “The Gods Love Nubia.” McCabe keeps up with her, but I think Perez holds back out of professional courtesy. Other highlights come from street smart Mereb (Lloyd Taylor II) singing “How I Know You” and Amneris’ “I Know The Truth.” I found Zoser too strident for a conspirator, and in “Like Father, Like Son” I voted with McCabe’s role.

Elton John’s pop sensibility waft through this story along with corny anachronisms and a good dose of late 20th century Political Correctness. Amnersis is fascinated by Radames’ life in the field, but when Zoser explains the conquest of Nubia to her, she gets all blood diamond concerned about her bangles. On the other hand, the love triangle is solid and convincing and the costumes (by Josette Gillette) are stunning. If you’re not up for three hours of Italian screeching, this gentle retelling of Aida will give you enough background to fake it through your next black tie fundraiser.

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