Aida music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang. Presented by Disney Theatrical Productions at the Canon (244 Victoria). Runs to May 31, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday (and May 29) at 2 pm. $26-$94. 416-872-1212. Rating: N
If the disney empire's return to glory was marked by the films Beauty And The Beast and the film/stage versions of The Lion King, then its fall is surely heralded by the heap of confusing rubble that is Aida.Elton John and Tim Rice's update of the grandest of all Italian operas is an uncomfortable mix of Afro-Egyptian history and daytime soap. Sure, so is Verdi's masterpiece, which beneath the pageantry is really a great love triangle tale with quasi-political undertones. But at least Verdi wasn't trying to be politically correct. And at least his music and characters were consistent.
Imprisoned Nubian princess Aida (Paulette Ivory, thinking she's Anita Baker in concert), and Egyptian captain stud Radames (a bland Jeremy Kushnier) fall for each other. But Aida, hiding her identity to protect her father, the king, is a slave to Egyptian princess Amneris (an animated Lisa Brescia), who's in love with Radames.
This love-on-the-Nile set-up gets lost in the show's earnest efforts to fill in cultural history (Let's build a pyramid!) that lack momentum and don't add to plot or character.
Sir Elton's score can't decide if it's rock, blues, disco or even gospel, and there isn't a single amusing rhyme in Rice's lyrics. The tone feels uneven, too, with serious and comic elements uncomfortably mixed. And Wayne Cilento's choreography, when it's not evoking Solid Gold reruns, seems like Lion King rejects.
On the plus side, the Tony Award-winning lighting shines.