CENTERVILLE — The production of Aida at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville is a refreshing delight, with plenty of heart and enough surprises to keep me on the edge of my seat. Aida is a show that requires dedication and ingenuity to pull off, and the cast, crew and staff at Centerpoint certainly pulled together a show that will be remembered.
Aida is a tale of romance and war, written by Linda Wollverton, Robert Falls, and David Henry Hwang, and is a reminder of what is most important in life: love. The story follows the forbidden love story of Captain Radames, (played by Brock Dalgleish) and princess turned slave, Aida (played by Raven Flowers). The two star-crossed lovers battle against all odds to be together, including the disapproval of both of their fathers, the law, and most significantly the somber fact that they are on opposite sides of the battle for Nubian freedom. This is a show full of song and dance, with music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice respectively, that will both excite and provoke thought.
The play opens with a modern museum scene and a beautiful number entitled “Every Story is a Love Story,” sung by a suddenly awakened statue of the Egyptian Princess Amneris, who is played by Angie Winegar. Winegar makes a strong entrance in this number, setting a scene that clearly tells of star crossed love, mixed with sadness and regret. From the moment her character is first introduced, Winegar is a solid member of the cast and upholds her role, ever changing as it was. The attitude that she portrays so strongly is that of a princess who loves the limelight and the spoils of royalty, but clearly is not ready to ascend a throne. Yet, Winegar was able to change smoothly as her character developed as the story progressed.
As impressive as the performance on her own was, it was enhanced by how well she interacted with the others on the stage. During her larger group number, “My Strongest Suit,” Winegar complemented and enhanced the well-executed choreography of the other female cast members, all while maintaining the solid vocal work she had displayed already. Amneris’s relationship with her betrothed, Radames, was modern in feel, but seemed a deliberate decision by director Scott Montgomery, and was enhanced by the attitude both actors put into the romance. This is just one example of the wonderful relationships Winegar had obviously built between Amneris and each of the other characters, as the developing friendship between Amneris and Aida was sincere and enthralling as well.
Dalgleish and Flowers as Radames and Aida were the very definition of a dynamic couple. From the first interaction of a heated sword fight followed with disdainful conversation, and throughout the tragic love story, leading to a final reprise of the moving song, “Elaborate Lives,” these two actors demanded attention and devoted themselves to the characters fully. Flowers has the raw vocal talent of a star, and the emotion enough to grace this role, but unfortunately there was something missing in both of these elements. While her voice was lovely and strong, the lack of diction in her words made it hard to truly understand how Aida felt, simply because it was hard to truly understand what was said. While acting as the enslaved princess, there were moments of tenderness, and hate, even joy and pain. These emotions in the right moment were moving, but interrupted by a constant tone of disgust that did not always fit the scene or her current attitude.
The role of Radames is a character that requires a variety of talents and feelings, something that Dalgleish accomplished with a flair. The script provides Dagleish with a solid base on which to start, but the Radames that came on stage was more than simply the words off the page. Instances such as the longing for something else felt in “Enchantment Passing Through” and the pure love of “Elaborate Lives” showed how deeply Dalgleish had connected with and developed this character. The influences of his father Zoser were obviously displayed in nature, but undertoned by something deeper and better than his role model was. His need to be free overthrew any other emotions or expectations he had on his, and rightly so.
Both the roles of Mereb and Zoser are important supporting characters, but in actuality would probably not adversely affect the quality of a production much if their actors were not well rehearsed or talented. This production was a wonderful example of how much the quality is enhanced when these two characters are both strong and rehearsed. Mereb, played by Andrew Elia Taula was thoughtful and wise in nature. He had a fully developed relationship with his long time best friend Radames, and showed appropriate fear and respect of Zoser. During his renditions of “How I Know You,” he wove a story with his voice that explained how such a good man could be in such a bad situation.
There were moments during his solo or duet performances where the movement was lackluster in nature, but seemed to be more of a choreographical choice than a personal choice. Several times through the show (including during “How I Know You” and “Another Pyramid”) the leads in these numbers did a lot of blocking that was simply walking to one spot and rooting themselves for a verse of song. While that did not detract from the quality of the show, having more movement or use of the space available definitely would have added interest.
Zoser is a role that is intentionally written with a feeling of a rock star and a charlatan, both of which were impressively portrayed by Danny Inkley in this cast. Inkley gave off a feeling that made me want him to win, even though I knew that he was inherently evil in nature. Zoser’s confidence and arrogance in all situations was fitting of the character, while having another face as it were for the pharaoh and her dear daughter showed how much both Zoser and Inkley had to be on their toes. Vocally, Inkley was a rock in all his musical numbers, and he had a stage presence I could not ignore.
This production of Aida was complemented by the technical ingenuity of set designer Ricky Parkinson, the sound design by Krista Davies, and most especially the costumes by Sydnie Howard and Janell Roundy, and choreography by Maggy Lawrence. The choreography in particular was impressive in its fluidity and structure, creating a longing to be a part of the show. Most notably were the scenes taking place in the Nubian slave camp, which had such raw emotion to elicit feeling and hope for a better day, all through the unspoken dance.
This production of Aida was enthralling and entertaining throughout, something that the whole crew should be proud to have their name on. If a tale of love and the fight for it is something you are interested in, this is the perfect show to see this month.