A Tale of a Dude and Two Dames

The dame, the dude and another dame.

The first dame desires the dude, who desires her right back, while betrothed to the second dame, who’s not into threesomes. Heroics and heartbreak ensue … amid the pyramids.

That’s amore in ancient Egypt, set to tunes by two Brits.

"It’s a doomed love story, but it has the Disney touch to it where it highlights the happier aspects," says Steve Huntsman, director of Signature Production’s "Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida," the final full-scale production of the Super Summer Theatre season, opening today at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

The Giuseppe Verdi opera-turned-pop Broadway musical centers around Aida (the first dame), an enslaved African princess from the country of Nubia, Egypt’s enemy, who attracts the affections of Radames (the dude), captain of the Egyptian army and Pharaoh-in-waiting, who’s set to get hitched to Princess Amneris (the second dame). Suffice to say that in a sprawling story, war, palace politics and treachery abound, capped by tragedy and reunited, reincarnated lovers.

"It’s really well-written as far as structure, you’ve got all the story elements, but some of the characters are not written very well and they suffer a bit — that’s the challenge to the actors, to bring it up on the other end," Huntsman says about the Disney-izing of the iconic opera.

"Radames’ father is responsible for killing the Pharaoh, making his son rise to power and getting rid of Aida. With the Disney aspect, he’s the villain, but you have to keep it light. You’ve got to pump a whole lot of oomph into it to make him a negative force."

Though their passions pulse through the eclectic score of Sir Elton and Sir Tim, Aida and Radames don’t get their kicks doing a thing called the "Crocodile Rock" and Amneris’ entrance is not announced by "The Bitch is Back."

"There’s gospel and spiritual, mixed with rock and roll and reggae, all kinds of musical influences," Huntsman says. "A lot of the story is sung through the music."

The Egyptian Romeo to Aida’s Juliet, Radames is a conflicted lover boy, caught between doing his duty for his country and getting some booty from Aida. … Wait, it’s Disney. Let’s PG-it: Radames yearns to be with his beloved. But plot twists — Aida’s daddy is captured, she’s got to dump Radames to save papa, Radames’ old man reams out sonny boy over his forbidden hook-ups, then orders his men to murder the Nubian floozy, and Radames tries to ice the nups to Amneris, who discovers he’s a philandering future Pharaoh — keep the lovers from gettin’ some lovin’.

"My character goes from someone cocky to falling really hard for someone that softens him, makes him realize it’s not all about wealth and power, but about love, which he’s never had before," says Brandon Albright, aka Radames. "Yes, the characters you fall in love with have to die in the end, but there’s a wrap-up where you feel really good for them."

The piece, Albright adds, need not cope with audience expectations that affected other Disney confections. "There hasn’t been a cartoon (movie) come out yet, so most people haven’t seen this the way they’ve seen ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ they don’t feel certain characters should be performed a certain way," he says. "This is mostly new to people."

As for Albright’s leading lady, she had no problems slipping into a romantic groove. "The leading man is hot!" says Tai Lewis, aka Aida, with a raucous guffaw. Who needs the Method when you’ve got the hots? But the score stimulated her even more.

"Before I even received the script, I bought the soundtrack and the songs are amazing," she says. "When the songs start, that’s when I’m like, ‘YES!’ That’s how I really express the character. It’s the (songs’) register, the way they’re structured, and they are very deep, intense, meaningful words."

From an opera to a musical to well, who knows? There might even be a sitcom here. We’re thinking Heather Locklear, Denise Richards and Richie Sambora in "Two Dames and a Dude."

Wouldn’t Verdi be proud?

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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