Thursday, July 16, 2015

Aida splashes onto the Dr. Phillips Center stage.

Encore! Cast Performing Arts presents Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts  (155 East Anderson Street Orlando FL). Alice Ramadan from the Dr. Phillips center had invited me to sketch the dress rehearsal on July 14th. More than 160 cast, chorus and orchestra appear on stage. Juan Torres the shows production manager welcomed me when I got to the Disney Theater. Tech was still in full swing with stage hands checking lights and sound. At the security check some core cast were taking a break since they had been rehearsing all day. I realized that the actresses who signed out were slave girls in the show.

The chorus entered the theater and entered the theater filling up the front rows. They looked around in amazement at the new theater and took selfies to prove they were there. This was the first time everyone had a chance to experience the space and perform on the set. Alice got on stage and welcomed everyone. which caused enthusiastic whoop from the huge chorus! She thanked everyone for believing in the arts center and she got choked up as she told us it was our theater now. Her love for the place could soften any heart.

There were a few sound problems that stopped the rehearsal at several points. All the core cast had microphone headsets and they didn't always work but that is why there are rehearsals, to work out the kinks. When Aida's mic needed to be adjusted, she had to lean forward while a stage hand adjusted the electronics at her hips. Some of the chorus laughed since her pose was rather provocative. She heard this and coyly rotated her hips and arched her back which heightened the irony and soon everyone was laughing.

At the Nile’s edge, the enslaved Nubian princess, Aida (Jerusha Cavazos) becomes romantically entangled with the Egyptian captain, Radames (Natale Pirrotta), who is betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter, Amneris (Hannah Berry Matthews). As their forbidden love grows deeper, Aida is forced to find balance between her heart’s yearning for Radames, and her responsibility to lead her people.  Aida and Radames's love for one another becomes a shining example of true devotion that ultimately transcends the vast cultural differences between their warring nations, heralding a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida is a timeless love story, featuring an award-winning pop/rock score from the seasoned pop duo who brought musical life to Disney’s The Lion King. Rousing rock numbers and heart-wrenching ballads bring the ill-fated lovers into a new era.

I've seen one other production of Aida, so I knew the music and story. I love many of the musical numbers in this show so I was swaying to the beats while I sketched. Having this many voices singing gives the show a power I hadn't experienced before. Amneris's song "My Strongest Suit" is a hilarious take on living a life of fashion and splendor. It is clearly an ironic look at spoiled Hollywood brats of today and the digital age's superficial fixation on youth and fashion. It is the shows "Sex in the City" fashion runway moment. Despite having it all there is a yearning for connection that fashion doesn't provide. The show is entertaining and often inspired.

Mark Your Calendar!
The final performance of Aida is tonight, Thursday, July 16, 2015.
Show time is 7:30 PM.
Tickets start at $33.75

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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