A stirring 'AIDA' 

Elton John & Tim Rice’s AIDA
Indianapolis Civic Theatre
Directed by Ryan Koharchik
Through Sept. 30

Indianapolis Civic Theatre opened its season last weekend with Elton John and Tim Rice’s story of an ancient Egyptian love triangle, AIDA.

A show like this with so many iconic songs needs to have an exceptional cast. Two of the three leads are up to the challenge. Civic newcomer Angela Nichols Manlove is a pitch-perfect Aida. Her voice, powerful and always under control, is the anchor the show demands. She is matched by Mikayla Anne Reed as the princess Amneris. While Reed started off a little shaky Friday night with the opener “Every Story Is a Love Story,” later on she nailed “My Strongest Suit” and “I Know the Truth.” She also gives the princess attitude and flair, creating an entertaining character you can laugh at, but also sympathize with. Reed steals all the scenes she is in. Unfortunately, the part of the Egyptian captain, Radames, often pushes Scott Martin out of his range. It’s obvious that he is struggling with notes his vocal chords can’t handle.

Support-wise, Ian Cruz does a great job as Radames’ slave Mereb, as does Kurt Owens as the scheming Zoser. The ensemble is spectacular on the large numbers, with the Act 1 closer, “The Gods Love Nubia,” creating a cascade of sound that is thrilling to hear live. Director Ryan Koharchik leaves no detail behind, be it blocking, inflection or Gregory Hancock’s choreography.

Koharchik’s multilevel set is simple but elegant, often utilizing backlighting for haunting scenes seen only in shadows. Costumes, especially for “My Strongest Suit,” are fabulous, thanks to Jean Engstrom. Michael J. Lasley’s sound uses the extended-note reverb effectively. Brent E. Marty’s music direction keeps the live orchestra from taking over the show, maintaining a complementary volume.

AIDA will be at the Civic Theatre, located on the Marion College campus, through Sept. 30. Call 317-923-4597 or go to www.civictheatre.org for tickets.

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