May 3, 2011

Celebration for a Cause

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This Monday, May 9th, a modified, music-focused rendition of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida will come to Bailey Hall. Performers from Broadway, Ithaca College and Cornell will come together to put on the show as a benefit: every penny of each ticket ($15 online/$17 at the door) will be donated to support Ugandan education and the building of a sustainable South African pre-school. Aimed at uniting the local community in support of a common cause as well as in admiration for top-notch entertainment, the show’s appeal is two-fold.

Following its premier in 2000, the play Aida has been performed almost 2000 times over the span of two national tours (2001-2003 and 2006-2007). It has been nominated for five Tony Awards and has won four, including best “Original Musical Score” (it is Sir Elton, after all). The show’s trademark song, “Written in the Stars,” which was written and sung by Elton John and LeAnn Rhimes, climbed national charts following the show’s release in the early 2000s.

With an empowered female lead, Disney Theatrical’s interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s Italian opera (bearing the same name), inevitably draws comparisons with Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid. However, while these plays were preceded by animated films, Aida is the first Disney Theatrical production that was not first an animated picture.

The story is right in Disney’s wheelhouse: determined lovers set on crossing cultural boarders and violating expectations of family loyalty to defend their understood fate against the efforts of disapproving authority. Radames, an Egyptian military captain, falls for Aida, a beautiful and self-assured Nubian woman after she is captured by his forces. Torn between this new-found love and his loyalty to his country and family, Radames must weigh commitment against passion … his duty against his calling … his girl against his world. The basic storyline is not tired, but timeless. Who can honestly say that they hate Disney movies? No one, that’s who. There just no beating these characters: the privileged heir to the throne with perspective, the cheeky beauty on a feminist streak, the sarcastic sidekick whose timely contributions are ultimately indispensable and the ghoulish antagonist.

The modified version of the play coming to Cornell will highlight the music of Aida while also staying true to the play’s storyline. Numerous acapella groups, dance troupes, choirs and actors from within Ithaca and elsewhere will be contributing to what promises to be a dynamic and powerful performance. Following direct efforts to give Ugandan students many of the artistic opportunities we often take for granted in America, numerous Cornell organizations collaborated to put this benefit together, both as a testament to the flourishing Ithaca artistic community and as a effort to bring some of the opportunities enjoyed here to African children.

Some of the groups that will be performing are Absolute Zero, Sitara, Bhangra, Impact, Shadows, Ithaca College Musical Theatre and many more. Monday’s performance will mark the culmination of months of preparation by numerous groups to put together a professional performance worthy of its cause. Attendees will have their artistic palates primed by an art display on Bailey Plaza beginning that afternoon.

Come for the cause and come for the show. After contributing to the cause, attendees will enjoy a show designed to remind the audience just why it is such a worthy cause. In America artistic opportunities abound, and it is easy to forget their indispensability. The Aida Benefit Concert on May 9th will be a celebration of our good fortune, a humble recognition of those that are less lucky and a direct effort to share the wealth.

Original Author: Nathan Tailleur