You remember what Chuck Berry said, "Rollover Verdi, tell Puccini the news." Or at least, that's what he would have said if he had seen Disney's latest blockbuster Aida, based on the famous story immortalized in the opera of the same name. And the reason Aida rocks is the efforts of Elton John and Tim Rice, who did so well in their first collaborative pairing—The Lion King.

In addition to a great score, which accounted for one of four Tony Awards last year, Aida boasts some dazzling lighting effects, stylish choreography, and three marvelous lead performances. Simone (Nina Simone's daughter) is the gutsy Aida, a Nubian princess captured by the Egyptian warrior Radames, the polished Patrick Cassidy, who is unaware of her pedigree, yet fascinated by her poise, all much to the chagrin of the Princess Amneris, the self-possessed heir to the throne, delivered by the charming Kelli Fournier.

Simone, Cassidy and Fournier, all Broadway veterans with strong voices, have no trouble living up to their characters' royal stature, bolstering the strong dramatic line at the core of this time-tested tale. The lighting, choreography and scenic design are equally dynamic and contribute to the rock opera feel. Aida gets away with this mix of contemporary effects and classical setting by bookending a modern twist around the original storyline. This is not your Wonder bread sanitized Disney. Verdi would have loved it, Puccini would rave.

Aida runs through June 24th at the Buell Theatre. 303-893-4100.


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