Sunday, March 6, 2005


Opera recast for Broadway
works well but for love tale

A war hero falls in love with a woman captured during the invasion of a neighboring country. A princess is puzzled by her betrothed's lack of interest in physically consummating their relationship. An ambitious politician plots an assassination for no apparent reason beyond the requirements of the plot.


Where: Mamiya Theatre.
When: 4 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 4 p.m. on March 13.
Tickets: $22 ($18 for seniors, students and military) plus $2.50 service charge.
Call: 550-8457 or online www.HonoluluBoxOffice.com

Welcome to the fanciful world of "Aida," spiffed up for Broadway by Elton John and Tim Rice, and now being presented by high school students for the first time anywhere by the Saint Louis Players at Mamiya Theatre through next Sunday.

Castle High School graduate Mahi'ai Kekumu (Radames), who understudied one of the secondary roles while performing in the ensemble on Broadway, puts a convincing spin on the role of a powerful man suddenly torn between his obligations to Egypt and his love for a Nubian slave.

Kekumu does some of his best work in the scene where Radames sidesteps Princess Amneris' efforts to get him into her bed. Kekumu's facial expressions make it clear that that's the last place he'd want to be.

Leihoku Pederson Ellsworth (Aida) is a commanding presence in the scenes where the slave defies her captors or confronts her responsibilities as a political symbol and de facto leader of the Nubians held captive in Egypt.

Ellorin Joy Davis (Amneris) quickly establishes herself as a comic actor with "My Strongest Suit" and carries on with an engaging performance that shows Amneris' evolution from spoiled, self-absorbed girl to promising, future pharaoh.

Several well-played scenes show Davis' range on her way to "I Know The Truth," the song that completes Amneris' emotional metamorphosis. Davis captures the emotional nuances of the lyrics in that key number even while gracefully stepping into a wedding gown with nary an awkward movement.

John Long (Zoser) gives a solid performance throughout as the principal villain. Adam Cho (Mereb) has several good scenes as a slave who owes his life to Radames but becomes Aida's conscience in persuading her to lead the Nubian resistance. Tanisha N. Armstead (Nahebka) shines in her one key scene as well.

What the show needs is a greater sense of chemistry and physical attraction between Kekumu and Ellsworth. They sing at each other beautifully, but never quite reach critical mass as a couple so in love they'd betray their respective countries and die for each other.

Davis brings Amneris' emotional ups and downs into the center of the story, but the story isn't about Amneris.

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