Broadway World Review

BWW Review: AIDA at the John W. Engeman Theater

May 22, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

BWW Review: AIDA at the John W. Engeman Theatre

Closing out The John W. Engeman Theatre’s dazzling season is a thrilling a showing of Elton John & Tim Rice‘s Aida. The beautiful Northport venue outdoes itself with the lush production of the heart-tugging musical. Excellently directed by Paul Stancato, the cast is remarkable drawing the audience in at every turn.

Running through June 23rd, the tale is about love, loyalty, and betrayal. We follow the love triangle between Aida, a Nubian princess stolen from her country, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, and Radames, the soldier they both love. The soaring score only clinches why this show is a Tony Award winner.

Kayla Cyphers is exquisite in the titular role. In particular, her heartbreaking performance of “Easy As Life” doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house. Ms. Cyphers makes a fantastic team with Ken Allen Neely, who skillfully portrays Radames. They carry the audience on an emotional roller coaster as the forbidden love of Aida and Radames grows. Also, Jenna Rubaii is stellar as Amneris, the Egyptian princess to whom Radames has been betrothed. Her performances of “Every Story Is A Love Story” is truly captivating. The full company is genuinely brilliant.

On the talented creative team, Michael Bottari & Ronald Case design the fantastic set. Rolling pieces and everyone contributing make for seamless scene changes. The atmospheric and sometimes chilling lighting by John Burkland enhances the visually moving show. Add in Kurt Alger‘s costumes, and you have a very touching production.

It’s evident that Aida at Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre is a must-see for this season. In true Engeman fashion, they do not disappoint. An emotional tale and a superb cast make for a very stirring night of theatre.

Read online Buy Tickets

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: Engeman Theater’s ‘Aida’ is a gift from the gods

May 15, 2019
By Heidi Sutton

The sands of ancient Egypt have blown into Northport as the Engeman Theater presents the timeless love story “Aida” through June 23. With music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, the musical is based on Giuseppe Verdi’s 19th-century opera of the same name.

The Egyptian pharaoh (Julius Chase) wishes to expand his reign beyond the Nile and orders Egyptian captain Radames to make war with neighboring Nubia. In his travels, Radames captures a dark and beautiful Nubian princess, Aida, and presents her as a gift to his fiancé of nine years, Princess Amneris. Over time he finds himself falling in love with Aida and begins to question the course his life should take.

When a plot orchestrated by Radames’ father Zoser (Enrique Acevedo) to poison the Pharaoh is brought to light and Radames and Aida’s forbidden love is discovered, Princess Amneris is tasked with deciding their fate. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that breaking ancient Egyptian laws never ended well.

Costumes by Kurt Alger are gorgeous, from Princess Amneris’ many gowns and headpieces to the Pharaoh’s royal garbs. The set, designed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, is adorned with hieroglyphics, palm trees, an occasional stream and a rotating platform that is utilized in many ways including as a ship, a throne and a prison cell.

Kayla Cyphers is perfectly cast as Aida, a enslaved princess stolen from her father, Amonasro (Gavin Gregory) and trying to stay strong for her people. “Nubia will never die! Whether we are enslaved or whether we are far from our native soil, Nubia lives in our hearts. And therefore, it lives.” Regal and strong-willed, she commands the stage in every scene.

We see the most change in Radames, expertly played by Ken Allen Neely, from a selfish cold-hearted man to a hopeless romantic who just wants to run away with his Nubian princess.

Jenna Rubaii is divine as the materialistic Princess Amneris, “first in beauty, wisdom … and accessories,” and draws the most laughs — “Are you trying to get me drunk, Radames? You know it’s not necessary,” and special mention should be made of Chaz Alexander Coffin who plays Mereb, a Nubian slave. From his first appearance on stage Coffin quickly becomes an audience favorite.

The musical numbers are the heart of the show, from the highly charged dance numbers, “Another Pyramid” and “Dance of the Robe,”  to the fun fashion show “Strongest Suit” and the romantic duets “Written in the Stars” and “Elaborate Lives.”

Director and choreographer Paul Stancato has such a wondrous and mysterious time period to work with and he takes full advantage of it, creating an exciting and colorful show  with a first-rate cast of actors-singers-dancers and live band to produce a wonderful evening of live theater.

 

Read online Buy tickets

Newsday Review

‘Aida’ review: It flows as beautifully as the Nile

Kayla Cyphers stars as Aida and Ken Allen Neely is the man she loves, Radames, in “Aida.” Photo Credit: Michael DeCristofaro

May 14, 2019
By Barbara Schuler

When Disney optioned a children’s book based on Verdi’s majestic opera “Aida,” the intention was to turn it into an animated film. But after “The Lion King,” Elton John wasn’t keen on another movie, so the project went straight to becoming a musical, running on Broadway for more than four years but rarely done in regional theaters.

And with good reason. Despite the pedigree of its creators — music by John, lyrics by Tim Rice with David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”) contributing to the book — “Aida” has never been able to make up its mind about what it wants to be. Campy parody? Tragic love triangle? Diatribe on slavery?

Let’s just acknowledge it was gutsy of the John W. Engeman Theater to give “Aida” a shot — and happily the risk paid off. The Northport theater’s production is a stunner, making the most of this problematic musical with an extraordinary cast and lofty production values.

Mostly it works because of the impressive performance of Kayla Cyphers in the title role, powerfully sung with a stirring combination of vulnerability and strength. With an old Egyptian myth at its heart, the show opens in a contemporary museum, with visitors wandering an exhibition about Amneris, “the female pharaoh.”

In an instant, time travels backward and we’re in ancient Egypt, where army captain Radames (an appropriately conflicted Ken Allen Neely) has captured a group of Nubian women, among them the king’s daughter, Aida. There’s instant attraction and an immediate problem: He’s engaged to the pharaoh’s daughter Amneris (Jenna Rubaii, smartly playing the pampered princess to the hilt, though she eventually sees the light and denounces the oppression inflicted by her people). For the necessary comic relief, Chaz Alexander Coffin delights as Nubian slave Mereb.

The story unfolds in predictable fashion, with John’s music ranging from the expected piano pop rock to Motown to full out gospel. Director-choreographer Paul Stancato has fun with an anachronistic vision of Amneris singing an ode to her wardrobe that ends with a fashion parade highlighting the creative work of costumer Kurt Alger. It plays out on the massive stone set by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, brightened with lovely, atmospheric lighting by John Burkland.

Remember, this is based on an opera, so there’s no happily ever after, unless you believe in reincarnation. In the end, we’re back in the modern museum, where a couple looking awfully familiar meets cute in front of a diorama of Amneris. To steal from another Disney epic, it’s a tale as old as time.

 

Read online Buy Tickets

Theatre Guide Review

Aida – John W. Engeman Theater

Kayla Cyphers (Aida) and Ken Allen Neely (Radames). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

May 13, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport has selected a timeless story of love, deceit, passion, and loyalty with Aida– winner of four Tony Awards with soul-stirring music by Elton John and Tim Rice.  Directed and choreographed by Paul Stancato, this tremendous performance will have you talking about it long after the curtains close.

A tale of star-crossed lovers is a favorite romantic trope; however, this cast of characters and their struggles make this heart-rending tale about much more than love at first sight.  When the Nubian Princess, Aida- played flawlessly by the captivating Kayla Cyphers- is stolen from her home and forced into slavery, she hides her true self in order to stay alive. Her encounters with the Egyptian warrior Radames, played exquisitely by the charming Ken Allen Neely, soon make it harder for her to guard her identity- and her heart.  All the while Radames is betrothed- and not to just anyone- to the Egyptian Princess Amneris, played by the dynamic Jenna Rubaii. Will Aida succumb to her love for Radames, or choose her love of country above all? Will Radames risk his status and security for a forbidden love that could never truly be? This rapturous tale reveals a plot full of passion, love, betrayal, and pain- and you won’t want to miss a minute of it!

Kayla Cyphers (Aida) and Ken Allen Neely (Radames). Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The Engeman Theater always puts on a beautiful show, and this performance is no exception.  While talent abounds on stage- Cyphers, Neely, and Rubaii create a painfully beautiful love triangle that is genuine and layered- there are countless other elements that make this performance practically perfect! The Creative Team for this show deserves a standing ovation for their artful construction and portrayal of both modern day and Ancient Egypt.  Scenic Designers Michael Bottari and Ronald Case not only impress with a set that swivels and turns, but the dramatic set changes from scene to scene are incredibly fluid.  John Burkland’s lighting design adds both drama and subtlety to the scenes in a way which compliments and amplifies the superior talent of the performers.  Speaking of talent- it abounds in this performance from start to finish! Jenna Rubaii’s portrayal of Amneris is both hysterical (“My Strongest Suit”) and heartbreaking (“I Know the Truth”); Chaz Alexander Coffin’s version of Mereb is both light and witty, while his performance of “How I Know You” (Reprise) will have you on the brink of tears.  Enrique Acevedo’s nefarious evocation of Zoser will leave you in stunned wonder of a man’s capacity for power and vanity with his vigorous and spirited renditions of “Another Pyramid” and “”Like Father, Like Son.” However, nothing will move you more than the tragically touching interaction between Aida and Radames (Cyphers and Neely) as they struggle to hold on to a love they know is fleeting (“Elaborate Lives” and “Written in the Stars”).

Jenna Rubaii (Amneris) and Ensemble. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

This show is quite simply a must see! It runs from May 9th- June 23rd, so grab a ticket and let Aida take you to another time and place- where love is layered and deep- and will always lead you back to the people and places you keep close to your heart.

 

Read online Buy Tickets
Navigation

Send this to a friend