Aida: The Good, The Bad, The Great
Fairview’s Aida faced a few obstacles (concerning casting and stage scenery) during its production, but it certainly prevailed. Despite the controversy over the traditionally African roles played by white students, acting and singing (especially the singing!) dissipated any doubts in our minds on the casting choices. (Please note that we saw the musical on Thursday and Saturday night, so we only saw the performances by Gretchen Shoemaker)
The Cast: FIVE STARS
It would be one thing if, for instance, it was a play that made offensive remarks or had an offensive theme towards a certain racial group. But, in our opinion, when you are simply trying to find an actor to fulfill a role, appearance should not be the deciding factor. The point of acting is to be someone else, and Nik Vlachos and Gretchen Shoemaker did just that. They left all boundaries behind and played the roles of Aida and Radames. Shoemaker’s voice is to die for. Who could have thought that she, being such a tiny thing, could fill up and captivate an entire auditorium, but the audience was on the edge of their seats during her solos. Vlachos also did a great job portraying Radames’ internal conflict, as well as the eventual realization of his love for the untouchable Aida. Cooper Lajeunesse and Ben Lattes also provided well-delivered, much needed comic relief.
Eleanor Leh as Amneris is an entirely different story. Not only was she good, she was absolutely STUNNING! She was humorous when she needed to be, serious when she needed to be, and just overall capable of portraying deep emotions that were crucial to the plot. Her voice was spectacular, filling the whole audience even as she sang softly. Eleanor Leh, as well as Shoemaker and Kolbrener, did a great job portraying the strong female roles that made Aida such a great and inspirational musical.
The Music: FIVE STARS
One of the best parts of Aida was the continuous flow of music accompanying the performance. The pit, while hidden, allowed the audience to be assisted with emotion provoking melodies that reached from the first row seats to the last. It allowed for all of sentiments to be felt at the right times and couldn’t have been better.
The Crew: FOUR AND A HALF STARS
The crew of Aida were able to efficiently move large props, under the cover of darkness, to transition between scenes smoothly. Although there was some confusion with the spotlights, for the most part things happened when they needed to happen and how they needed to happen.
Scenes and Props: TWO STARS
The props were able to transform the bare stage into ancient Egypt, but we wish that there had been more of a variety. The same central pieces were manipulated to create several settings, which could have been resourceful and creative had it been done more effectively, but in this case just seemed to slow the progression of the plot. The smoke/fog machine also could have been cool, but only made the whole auditorium hazy, choking the people sitting in the first few rows. We were sitting in one of the front rows and it got in my eyes and lungs. It was cool, however, when the boat at the end of the play disappeared so quickly and smoothly.
Overall, Fairview’s production of Aida was able to produce emotions and beauty comparable to that of the true story of Romeo and Juliet. Despite controversy over casting, as well as a lack of diverse scene settings, the music and actors were able to carry the show to success.
RATING: FOUR AND A HALF STARS