Arizona Daily Wildcat advertising info
UA news
world news
cat calls
police beat
photo features

UA Basketball
restaurant, bar and party guide
Write a letter to the Editor

Contact the Daily Wildcat staff

Send feedback to the web designers

Arizona Student Media info...

Daily Wildcat staff alumni...

TV3 - student tv...

KAMP - student radio...

Wildcat Online Banner

An Operatic Occupation

By Graig Uhlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday Jan. 9, 2002

'Aida' star LaMura deems play synonymous with pop culture

There is a moment in Elton John's and Tim Rice's "Aida" that is definitely not in the Verdi opera on which it is based, or in any other Broadway musical for that matter.

That moment arrives midway through the song "My Strongest Suit," when the female attendants to the Egyptian princess Amneris act out a fashion show. The narrative is put on pause as it gives way to dancing lights, catwalk struts and over-the-top costumes. "Aida" is style over content, surface over substance; it's light, it's fun and it's gracing Centennial Hall.

"I tried to bring deification to the role, smattered with some humanity in there," Mark LaMura, the Pharaoh in 'Aida.'

The musical tells the ages-old story of star-crossed lovers, separated by family and duty in ancient Egypt, but it does so in a new way: one inflected by a pop-culture aesthetic not commonly seen on the Great White Way, says actor Mark LaMura, who plays the Pharaoh in the production.

"I think the 'Aida' production that we are in is pop culture," he said. "It is the ice breaker that's out there in front; it's the spearhead of today's culture. It is Britney Spears. It is Backstreet Boys. In the theater world, we are they."

Such a distinction may garner audience appreciation
- and even four 2000 Tony Awards - but often leaves critics rather unenthused. Reviewers proved unimpressed by the production's light-hearted, stylized tone, but LaMura said the critics approached the show with expectations of what a musical should be and not what it could be.

"I think the reviewers who come with a preconceived notion of what it should be are the ones who are giving it a non-positive review," LaMura said. "I think if you come in with a clear, open mind, you will enjoy it."

The true test of a show's success, after all, lies in the audience's response to it.

"They stand up and cheer every night. Every night," LaMura said. "We have never had a performance where they have not stood up and cheered.

"It's meant to dazzle you," he added. "And in that instance, I think it achieved its goal."

While "Aida" is often dazzling - "we travel with our own lasers, for God's sake," LaMura said - its story is simple. The Nubian princess Aida (Merle Dandridge) falls in love, star-crossed style, with her Egyptian captor, Captain Radames (Patrick Cassidy). Radames, however, is betrothed to the vain princess Amneris, making him heir to the Egyptian kingdom, if only he refuses to follow his heart.

LaMura, who plays Amneris' father, the Pharaoh, said with a bit of a smirk in his voice that the role of divine ruler proved an enjoyable one to play.

"It's good to be king," he said, "but it's great to be god-king."

He then added, wryly, "I tried to bring deification to the role, smattered with some humanity in there."

All his joking aside, LaMura was able to utilize in his performance his own personal experiences of traveling in Egypt, of actually being in places where the musical is set, like the Great Pyramids of Giza.

"I am able to bring each night those feelings and thoughts of being there and seeing that stuff," he said.

LaMura said the show's director was not interested in the historical research he brought to his role and that everyone's eyes should be on the same goal: to entertain - which is, after all, the function of an actor.

"For 5,000 years, our (actors') job has been to lift people's spirits from their daily lives," LaMura said. "Our job is to lift their spirits. Let's go about doing our job. I think this is a great show for doing that. It was created to entertain you."

"Aida" opened at Centennial Hall last night and will run through Sunday. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Matinees are at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices vary. For ticket information, call 621-3341.


advertising info

Webmaster -
© Copyright 2001 - The Arizona Daily Wildcat - Arizona Student Media