“And who’d have thought a show could be so good? Not me…”
I’ve returned from Spring Mountain Valley Ranch Park, and Super Summer Theatre’s third offering “AIDA” which was presented by Signature Productions. It was a beautiful, calm night (despite the initial stand-off with sprinkles) and my wife had a hard time falling asleep tonight…and here I am typing this post at 2:20 am. You know you’re watching a great show, when it affects you to the point to where you can’t settle down afterwards.
My friend, fellow actor and Signature Board member and former director (I worked under him for Peter Pan) Steve Huntsman directed this gem, and deserves a lot of kudos. It was a marvel. The amazing set was awesome. The costumes were brilliant. The concept, design and execution…very, very well done. All in all, I was quite taken with the show, and if you’ve never seen the show before, I highly recommend it. (Of course you can’t see this one…it was closing night!) It’s a very common tale of torn lovers from two different worlds seeking harmony within their conflicted selves and their countries at war. Very Romeo and Juliet. But as simple as the plot structure can be viewed…the tale itself took us on a roller-coaster tour of highs and lows that kept the audiences focused and the most fidgety 4th graders affixed. Heck…baby’s stopped crying! Elton John’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics are captivating and refreshing at every turn and there are three moments I caught tears in my wife’s eyes. (And those were only the times I could tear my own focus away from the stage.)
Am I over doing it? Perhaps. But you so rarely see theatre anymore that simply entertains you. This show is long (especially when played without an intermission…phew! Potty break!) The show could be told in 30 minutes, easy. But the thing is….while simple “on paper”….it’s the type of show that can be brought to life in such a way as to conjure up actual feelings. Imagine that! We’re so used to reality television and instant coffee, that we forget that the purpose of theatre is to allow an audience to escape reality and feel something about some other character’s conflict for a while. Take two steps back and say “who cares about grading my school papers, I need to know that the Nubian King will be set free!” This show accomplished that.
Does it have flaws? Sure! It’s a living, breathing musical. It features flesh and blood performers with stellar voices that work very hard. The pancake foundation is thick, no doubt, and you’d be surprised to know how much hot glue is holding things together up there…but the bottom line is I was entertained….and it was my 4th time seeing it. I sat with my wife and squeezed her hand during the sad scenes. I worried about the princess, toiled over who I should be rooting for…and was very sad when Mereb died. I stood and clapped at the end and we had lots to talk about on the drive home. That’s theatre. That’s what live theatre should be about. It’s relating or NOT relating to what just happened. It’s agreeing or disagreeing…it’s loving or hating. Costumes, Props…pancake foundation…they’re all tools to help a performer offer something real. Is the Egyptian boat, or the plastic sword, or the cordless mic real? Nah. But that moment when I caught my wife tear up , and she looked back and quickly wiped away the tear, half-embarrassed…that’s a moment I’ll remember. The musical helped her to connect to a feeling…a moment…a truth that allowed her to expand, expell and feel. You don’t find that standin gin line for a latte or mowing your lawn. I love that about live performance. Good, bad or ugly…it’s about life….living, breathing life.
Sometimes I wonder if theatre critics like theatre. Not just the singing and the dancing. But the experience. I wonder if they whistle the songs to the show on their scenic drive out to the Ranch. I wonder if they hesitate before getting up to buy popcorn for fear of missing that first chord at the beginning of the overture. The reviewer for this show was luke warm about everything…and commented about stupid little nuances, in my opinion. I can’t help but wonder if the obligation of reviewing a show burdens the wonder and specticle of it all. Make-believe is only fun when it’s unscripted.
There is always something to look forward to and ultimately endure when you go out for a night of theatre. This particular night was no different. Before the show even began a fight broke out in the audience. A full-on fist fight between a drunk guy (you can bring adult beverages with your picnic at the Ranch) and some other dude over….someone else’s baby-daddy. (I don’t know!!!) Whatever. That broke off pretty quick and the whole audience, (including the guy who got hit in the face with a drinking glass) all had a laugh. The burros joined in.
I had the pleasure of working on props for the show, which is a position I never actually grappled with before. Oh sure, here and there for my shows at Faith Lutheran…but a full-fledged position? First time. What a thrill to see my name attached to that particular project. Whoo! To know the Amulet that I made was a tide-turning focal point in the second act, made me very happy and added a personal touch to the evening.
I knew several of the cast members, but became aquainted with al throughout the run of the show and my occasional visits to make sure that swords were in one piece and “spoils of war” were all present and not losing their luster. A former drama student of mine was in the show. This is a lad I fondly recall directing in “Father of the Bride” and “Into the Woods” nearly four years ago. He’s matured, learned how to dance apparently (!!) and has morphed into a grade-A young talent. This guy could seriously walk off the stage and onto another one in a heart-beat. The buttons nearly popped off my shirt I was so proud!
Well, with that said…I’m going to try and go to sleep. I will tip my hat one more time to the cast and crew of AIDA. You all had a great run…a very memorable, entertaining show…and I am very thankful to have been part of it. Blessings to you all as you go your several ways. May you find joy, reward and opportunity in your next projects. Real joy, real reward….and real opportunity. None of that fake stuff like they write about in newspapers.