The best of a bad situation

Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida

Two’s company, three’s a musical.

Two’s company, three’s a musical.

Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday; $18. Green Valley Theatre Company at The Grange Performing Arts Center, 3823 V Street; (916) 736-2664; Through March 10.
Rated 3.0

Elton John has proven he is multi-talented. He’s a legendary singer, songwriter, musician and performer. And beginning with the 1994 Disney flick The Lion King, he’s branched out into soundtracks and musicals, with mixed results.

John has had some successes, but the few musicals he wrote specifically for the stage have been a bit problematic: Lestat, inspired by Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles; Billy Elliot: The Musical, inspired by the movie of the same name; and Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida, inspired by a kid’s book about the Giuseppe Verdi opera, all suffer from rather mediocre soundtracks and songs.

We’re here to talk about the last one, John’s Aida, which isn’t taken directly from Verdi’s famous opera love story between a captive Ethiopian princess and the Egyptian warrior who enslaves her, but rather a children’s book about it the by opera diva Leontyne Price. The songs are a mixed bag of show-tune styles that include rock, ballads, gospel, cabaret and pop, and all commit three sins of musical theater—they lack cohesion, aren’t memorable and don’t propel the story forward.

So, now you have the Green Valley Theatre Company who selected Aida as a follow-up to its recent successful runs of Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Show. The result is a conundrum of a very good production of a not very good musical.

The lead performers are truly impressive, the sets and costumes are dramatic, the dance numbers are fun, and the live 10-member orchestra really delivers the goods. It’s just a shame that all this talent and hard work is dimmed by the musical chosen.

But back to the positives: The two leads, Sara Logan as Aida and Jacob Montoya as Radamès, not only possess amazing voices and great stage presence, but have chemistry that works. Two other notable voices are Ryan Allen as Mereb and Kate Richardson as Amneris (wonderfully comedic, but she needs to pull in the camp just a bit). The backup performers are also full of energy and enthusiasm.

The production values are up to the usual great standards that Green Valley has shown in its other shows with a creative set complete with Egyptian stone columns, wonderfully colorful costumes and an on-stage cohesive live orchestra that fills the theater with its full musical sound. You just wish they were staging a different musical.