Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Seeing Aida at Hattiloo Theatre

It’s been a busy past few weeks for me; between wrapping up the school year at Aspire Hanley Middle School and officially taking over as its principal, the crazy storm and week-long power outage, singing with the Wolf River Singers for their last concert of the season, and traveling to Chicago for the Ryan Fellowship’s annual strategic planning retreat, it’s been hard to carve out some time to get out and enjoy the city!

However, this past weekend, I was determined to do so, mainly because this past Thursday I celebrated my 34th trip around the Sun. That’s right…it was my birthday, and a special someone made sure I had a birthday to remember with tickets to Hattiloo Theatre’s production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida.”

Now, I am admittedly more familiar with Giuseppe Verdi’s opera masterpiece “Aida”, especially with the best singer of this role, the legendary Leontyne Price, but fortunately the musical is based on the opera and I knew the story well. The Ethiopian princess of the opera is the Nubian princess in the musical who is captured by an Egyptian captain and forced to choose between the love of country over the love of a lifetime. The stuff of all great tragedies, right?

I passed by the Hattiloo Theatre several times, but never had the occasion of seeing a show in it. This theater is dedicated to presenting works of black playwrights, living up to its mission of being a lens of African American culture. I can tell you now that it has catapulted to one of my favorite theaters for that reason alone, but the space is truly amazing with beautiful art and design.

The theatre is an intimate space with only three rows of seats on three of the four sides of the black box theater. It was intriguing to see how they scaled down a big Broadway musical to the scale of a three row theater, but it was exceptionally done. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and my front row seat made it seem as if I was a part of the action.

 

Overall, it was a great show with some great talent. Of note was Samantha Lynn who played the role of Amneris, the Egyptian princess betrothed to Radames, the Egyptian captain who falls for Aida after capturing her as a slave. Ms. Lynn’s showstopper, “My Strongest Suit,” did just that, and provided a moment of gayety. Radames was portrayed by Kortland Whalum whose deep voice and cadence had the audience swooning almost as much as it did during his shirtless scenes or great ballads. Christian Boyd did a great job embodying the sweet and cunning role of Mereb, and you could hear and feel the gasps of the audience when he met his untimely demise. In the title role, Krissi Bolden delivers a super solid vocal performance that convinces you she is truly torn between doing what’s best for her country of Nubia and taking on her own self-interest of love. The ensemble was strong, too, but one person—Alyssa Love—stood out for her beautifully clear voice.

“Aida” plays June 9th through July 2, so definitely go and check it out. The seats are general admission, but as I mentioned earlier, there’s not really a bad seat in the house.

What else am I up to? Keep up with my Year One adventures here.

What is Year One? Go here to read more.