Spotlight Central
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Spotlight Central

See American Idol’s Ace Young Starring in Axelrod PAC’s Aida!

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

The Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, is currently lighting up the stage at Deal Park, NJ’s Axelrod Performing Arts Center. Presented in the venue’s ultra-modern Vogel theater, the show — directed by Broadway’s Luis Salgado and featuring American Idol’s Ace Young, in addition to rising star Anita Welch and New Jersey actress/singer Erin Maya — runs weekends from now until June 16, 2019.

Based on the opera by Guiseppe Verdi, Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida is a timeless love story, featuring an award-winning pop/rock score from the composer and lyricist of Disney’s The Lion King. A winner of four 2000 Tony awards, when Aida premiered on Broadway, it was named by Time magazine as one of the top ten theatre productions of the year, and the original cast recording went on to win a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

Aida takes place in ancient Egypt, during the days of the Pharaohs. The plot centers around Radames (Ace Young), an Egyptian military captain, who returns from a trip to Egypt’s enemy empire, Nubia, accompanied by a host of Nubian slaves.

One of these slaves is Aida (Anita Welch) who, in reality, is a Nubian princess. After Aida is put into shackles, she snatches a soldier’s sword in an effort to challenge Radames and escape.

Not knowing that she is a princess, Radames nonetheless recognizes something special in Aida. As such, he decides to give Aida as a gift to Pharaoh’s daughter, Princess Amneris (Erin Maya), to whom he is betrothed.

Working as the Princess’ handmaiden, Aida begins to bond with Amneris, the two becoming more like honored friends than mistress and servant.

Over time, Radames finds himself falling in love with Aida, and Aida is smitten with Radames, as well.

As the couple’s forbidden love grows deeper, Aida is forced to find a balance between her heart’s yearning for Radames and her desire to help ease the oppression of the Nubian people.

Axelrod PAC’s production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida is directed and choreographed by Luis Salgada, best known for his work on Broadway in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and on such movies as Across the Universe and Disney’s Enchanted.

States Salgado about his decision to present Aida at Axelrod PAC, “One reason I chose to do Aida is because that was the first ‘big Broadway show’ I ever saw, and it was the show the made me want to move from Puerto Rico to New York.”

Revealing, “This is my third show as director here at Axelrod,” Salgado recounts, “My first show, In the Heights, involved the community. With my second show, Ragtime — which is about love and acceptance, as well as race issues — I took liberties with staging and modernized it,” before adding, “And now we have Aida.”

Continuing, “The story is an important consideration which attracted me to the show,” Salgado recalls, “It’s simple, but I thought, ‘What else can it be? What would be another way of exploring it?’ So I took elements from Robert Wilson — the experimental theater director — to give the production its avant-garde linear movement, and then I combined it with what you’d experience at an AC/DC concert where the sound and lighting is right up there in your face.”

As such, explains Salgado, his vision for Aida does not only utilize traditional lighting design, but also employs the use of modern LED lighting technology in terms of its staging and set design, giving this production of Aida a look and feel which audiences have never experienced before.

With regards to the cast which inhabits this world he’s created, Salgado remarks, “Ace Young is an incredible musician — hearing him as Radames is worth the price of admission — and Anita Welch who plays Aida? This is her dream role; she’s in it 1000%,” before noting, “And New Jersey’s own Erin Maya has an incredibly powerful rock and roll voice that people won’t want to miss.”

Says Erin Maya about being cast in the role of Amneris, “This is my first show in about a year. I love working with Luis Salgado — and getting to perform right here in New Jersey is wonderful; it will be a real hometown crowd for me.”

Continuing, “Our ensemble is insane. They are all triple threats — equally phenomenal in terms of acting, singing, and dancing,” Maya exclaims, “The bar has truly been raised!”

“As an Egyptian princess, Amneris is a very ‘girlie girl’ character,” explains Maya, “but in real life, I’m more of a tomboy, so it’s been fun tapping into that more feminine side of me. Exploring the role has been fascinating — the character has such an arc. At first, Amneris is naive, living in her own bubble and leading a very privileged life. But then, as she progresses from girl to woman, she shows growth and maturity because through Aida, her handmaiden, she learns more and more about the world around her.”

When asked if she feels the story of Aida resonates with today’s audiences, Maya responds with an emphatic, “Yes!” disclosing, “This is a great story to talk about opening one’s eyes to what is happening in someone else’s life — especially when you consider that what is really needed in today’s world is not only empathy, but radical empathy.”

Says Ace Young about performing in Aida with his on-stage partners, “I love working with Erin — with her performance as Amneris, she just murders it,” before adding, “and as far as Anita Welch as Aida is concerned, she just rips the paint off the wall.”

Before being cast as Radames in Aida, Young — who became a household name when he appeared as a contestant on Season Five of TV’s American Idol — also performed on Broadway, starring in both Grease and Hair.

Young additionally starred in the U.S. national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with his wife, singer Diana DeGarmo, and just recently completed a horror movie which was filmed in New Jersey called Clinton Road.

Remarks Young about this current production of Aida, “The show is great and the ensemble is amazing. A lot of the cast is from New York, but we also have local support — for example, Erin Maya is from Jersey,” before adding, “And the Axelrod is such a great place to bring the whole family to see Aida — from kids to grandparents — and it could even make for a great date night show, too, because the show is a love story.”

Continuing, “And from a production standpoint, the show employs beautiful technology — the new LED lighting rig we’re using is something that has never been done before, so audiences will see Aida with a different visual,” Young exclaims, “We’re having so much fun with this show, and so will audience members who will get to enjoy each Elton John and Tim Rice number before we slam ’em again with the next great song!”

Director Luis Salgado agrees with Young when he concludes, “Our production of Aida at Axelrod PAC is exciting, fun, and dramatic. No one should miss this show!”

Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida has performances on June 7 at 8pm, June 8 at 2pm and 8pm, June 9 at 3pm, June 13 at 2pm and 8pm, June 14 at 8pm, June 15 at 2pm and 8pm, and June 16 at 3pm at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center located at 100 Grant Avenue in Deal Park, NJ. Adult tickets are $58 and $64 and senior tickets are $50 and $56, and can ordered by calling 732–531–9106, Ext. 14, or by clicking on axelrodartscenter.com.

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