8th October 2016
The Assembly Rooms, Bolsover
Type of Production
Author: Joyce Handbury
Aida is a musical based on the opera of the same name by Giuseppe Verdi. It has music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang. The story opens and closes in an antiquities museum as visitors casually take in the images of ancient Egypt and Nubia. The audience is transported from here to Ancient Egypt by a statue of female Pharoah Amneris who comes to life. In Egypt we meet Ramades, the captain of the Egyptian army, and Aida, a captured Nubian slave. Ramades is attracted to the feisty Aida, who unbeknown to him is a Nubian Princess, and presents her as a gift to his betrothed of seven years, Amneris. He falls in love with her which upsets his father, Zoser, a high minister to Pharoah, who is plotting to steal the throne for his son by slowly poisoning the ruler. I was looking at the programme before the start of the show and it struck me how many different scene locations there were. How were they going to achieve this? Well, it was accomplished by a remarkable innovative set design. The construction basically consisted of triangular ‘trucks’ and two square ones that were unobtrusively rotated to depict the various scenes and were magnificently painted by scenic artists Andrew and Sabina Feltham. There were also beautifully painted flats at either side of the stage. It was truly inspirational. Not only must that have been a challenge for the Director, but, with a diverse score of some seventeen musical numbers including reggae, ballads, motown, pop, folk and gospel styles, what a huge challenge it also was for Musical Director, Nigel Turner. Leanne Collins as Aida, conveyed the strong, courageous and defiant sides of the character as well as the more tender side superbly. The singing of her numerous songs and powerful ballads was truly splendid. Istvan Koszegi looked every inch the commanding Captain from his attire to his stance and body language. Whilst singing is not his strongest asset, he coped extremely well with the difficult repertoire. Wendy Blunt was great as Amneris, the spoiled Princess who became an insightful ruler. Her fine, powerful voice was divine and her many magnificent outfits were stunning. What an absolutely terrific voice has Peter Maddison whose likeable and warm portrayal of Mareb was just perfect. Mick Whitehouse was imposing and tenacious as Zoser and it was obvious that he really enjoyed being a bit of a ‘rocker’! Excellent support came from Tara Foster as Nehebka, Paul Holland as Amonasro (wearing in one scene, an authentic Moroccan jubbah) and Glenn Turner as the slowly being poisoned Pharoah. The Ministers, Soldiers, Guards, Nubians and Palace Women gave their all in support of the main characters with their singing and simple but effective dance movements which were well executed. The lighting enhanced the set perfectly and the costumes were wonderful.
Praise indeed must go to the production team, who undoubtedly must have worked their socks off to get the cast to such a high standard of performance, to the whole cast for all their efforts in achieving that expectation and to all the backstage crew. Well done!