Deseret Morning News, Thursday, September 08, 2005

Excitement builds for 'Aida' opening

Opening is Friday; director hails SCERA for 'raising the bar'

By Sharon Haddock
Deseret Morning News

OREM — The director of Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida" opening at the SCERA Friday says the opera-turned-musical is the biggest project he's taken on in his career.

Cindy Winkel, left, is Amneris, Kandyce Cameron is Aida and Justin Utley is Radames in the new "Aida."

Mark A. Philbrick, BYU
But that doesn't mean he's going to be shy about doing things his way.

Chad Taylor, an American Fork native who is only 26, doesn't want the show to be a predictable, carbon-copy Disney production. He wants more realism. "It's got redeemable qualities, the hope factor even though it ends rather darkly," he said.

"The SCERA has gone out of their way to raise the bar," Taylor said. "They're providing enough budget and the support we need to do this. The set is breathtaking. The costumes reflect a taste of Egypt with a kind of nineties flair. When I was offered the opportunity to direct it, I jumped on it."

He's aware that he's a young director. "My age gave them pause," he said.

Taylor was recruited by SCERA's managing director Mindy Berry Young. He has a bachelor's degree from Southern Utah University where he directed four shows and has extensive acting experience as well.

He feels a little pressure to do well because the show is new to Utah and only recently left the Broadway stage.

"Fortunately, I have three of the most amazing performers as leads," he said.

Kandyce Cameron plays the Egyptian slave Aida who catches the eye of Radames, the Egyptian soldier betrothed to Amneris. Justin Utley is Radames, first Aida's master and ultimately her lover. Amneris, Aida's spoiled princess mistress, is played by Cindy Winkel.

Cameron drives 80 miles round trip every night from Clinton to Orem to rehearse and perform.

"I didn't really know the SCERA was doing it until my friends, who know Chad, told me about it. I was so excited to get the part. Aida is such a strong character," Cameron said. "The music is so powerful and it's such an emotional play."

Cameron said the love triangle makes for great tension on stage and her fellow actors are up to the challenge.

Kandyce Cameron plays Aida.

Mark A. Philbrick, BYU
"The chemistry? Yeah, it's there," she said.

Utley said his character is a little too sure of himself in the beginning but finds out love dictates a person's decisions even when it's unbidden and unexpected.

"Radames has his life all set out for him by the Pharaoh, and then it's all upset by Aida. He realizes he'll give up everything for love," Utley said. "It's a pretty powerful story even for today's audience."

SCERA CEO Adam Robertson said Aida is the jewel of the encore season that is capturing patron attention and motivating season ticket sales.

"We're thrilled to be offering this. When you say "Aida" people get excited. They can't believe it," Robertson said.

Robertson said he and his staff knew the show was becoming available and when it did, they grabbed the opportunity to have it first.

"Aida" is also on Brigham Young University's schedule for January 2006.

If you go

What: Utah premiere of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida

Where: SCERA Showhouse, 745 S. State, Orem

When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9 through Oct. 3

How much: $10-$14

Phone: 225-2569



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