Egypt is known for its massive pyramids. But for the past few years, a new Egyptian triangle has been garnering accolades -- the love triangle between Aida, Radames and Amneris in Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida."
The Tony and Grammy award-winning smash hit premieres in Utah on Friday at the SCERA Theatre in Orem, starring Kandyce Cameron as Aida, Justin Uttley as Radames
and Cindy Winkel as Amneris. "Aida" runs until Oct. 3.
The contemporary musical tells the tale of Aida, a Nubian princess captured by the Egyptian army and kept as a slave for Amneris, the pharaoh's daughter. Radames, the captain of the army, falls in love with Aida -- even though he has promised to marry Amneris -- and the enslaved princess must decide between loyalty to her people and loyalty to her heart.
"It's kind of a Romeo and Juliet twist," said director Chadwick Taylor. "Star-crossed lovers, interracial prejudices, warring countries -- it deals with a lot of issues that we are dealing with today."
The musical's modern themes are fitting but the relevance is somewhat coincidental, since "Aida" was written as an opera by Verdi in 1871.
John and Rice, who also created the award-winning score for Disney's "The Lion King," adapted the play for Broadway four and a half years ago.
"It's an interesting mix between a rock concert and a dance concert and an opera," Taylor said. "It's got that poppy sound. It's unlike anything that Utah has ever seen."
Part of the modern flair lies in the exotic set and bright costuming, he said. The SCERA is using set and costume designer Arnold Beuso of Miami, who has created "Egypt with a 2000 twist."
"It's kind of a melting pot of all things theatrical," Taylor said. "Great dancing, great singing, great costumes."
Although the SCERA staging is the Utah premiere, theatergoers will likely recognize the pop-rock score. Several songs made it to the airwaves, including "Written in the Stars" as recorded by John and LeAnn Rimes.
"Easy as Life" is a cast favorite because it is the turning point in the musical, said Kandyce Cameron, who plays Aida.
"(The music) plays a big role in how Aida thinks," Cameron said. "I love the emotion that is in the music. I feel connected to it and I want other people to feel connected to it."
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page 12.