Deseret Morning News, Thursday, September 15, 2005

'Aida' entertains and wows with pageantry, color, intrigue

Vocals are strong; acting is quite good; costuming is lavish

By Sharon Haddock
Deseret Morning News

OREM — "Aida" is an interesting show — full of pageantry, color and the intrigue that comes when royal lovers are mismatched.

Kandyce Cameron plays the feisty Nubian princess Aida, center, Justin Utley is Radames, right, and Cindy Winkel is Amneris in SCERA's "Aida."

Mark A. Philbrick
And once one recognizes it's based on an opera where plot development isn't a top priority, it's easier to sit back and simply enjoy it.

The vocals are strong.

The acting is quite good.

Costuming is lavish.

And the set is very unusual, basically a big rhomboid that works well as the backdrop for a palace, a museum, an Egyptian tomb, even a slave camp as the lights change colors and the story is told.

The leads are well chosen, and despite a few opening night slips and pauses with the lights, the soundtrack and the microphones, they carry the show with strength and class.

Radames is well-suited to be the Egyptian soldier who's never before broken with the future his father has designed for him. With limited opportunity to do so, Justin Utley plays Radames with sensitivity and passion. He gives believability to his character.

Aida, played by Kandyce Cameron, is poignant in her portrayal of a feisty Nubian princess who falls in love quite by accident after she's captured by the enemy and feels she's betraying her people if she follows her heart. The songs she sings are full of resonance and heart. She also avoids being weak or predictable.

But it's Amneris, played by Cindy Winkel, who steals the show.

Surprisingly, she comes across as the most sympathetic character although she starts out belting out a song about how important it is to wear the right clothes really well.

She seems to truly enjoy herself as the spoiled and shallow daughter of a dying Pharaoh. She's later confused by Radames' lack of interest in their marriage and surprised to find herself on the outside of the love triangle.

It's Amneris who takes what's happened and makes a choice that shows both character and depth.

This is a show that takes an old Verdi opera and jazzes it up for the modern-day so it's lively, stunning and not entirely historically correct.

For instance, the pharaoh probably would have had someone taste his food for him. Does arsenic make one cough?

There's also a little bit of modesty built in that surely wasn't there for the Broadway show. A turtleneck wedding dress for an Egyptian princess?

And there's a lot of Elton John in the music, which isn't really a bad thing. It's just interesting.

This is a good show to see. It's light despite the doom headed toward the lovers, and it moves along at a nice pace.

For those who want to jump into theater without having to think a whole lot, it's a good one.

It's also a wonderful musical treat.

If you go. . .

What: "Aida"

Where: SCERA Showhouse II, 745 S. State, Orem

When: 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 3

How much: $12 adults, $10 children

Phone: 225-2569



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