From the Aisle

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By Linda Armstrong
Williams Is Wonderful In ‘AIDA’
Michelle T. Williams of Destiny’s Child is making her Broadway debut in AIDA, a Disney musical with amazing music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton. Williams’ debut is delightful. She is a wonderful fit to the cast of the Tony- Award winning show. Her acting and singing are on point as she takes on the powerful character of Aida, a Nubian princess. “AIDA” is a story of forbidden love, filled with passion and betrayal.
Williams’ voice soars during several numbers in the play. Although she does not have a Broadway- trained voice, she manages to hold her own, amongst a gifted cast. During numbers which showcase Aida in a dance where the enslaved Nubians beg for her leadership, Williams’ singing talent is enormous. Her voice rocked the theater as she sang “The Gods of Nubia” and “Easy As Life.”
“I thank God that I am making my Broadway debut in a Disney production and in a strong role representing Nubia,” said Williams at a celebration party held after her December 11 evening performance.
Williams performs the role six times a week. She stepped into the role after singer Toni Braxton, who she carefully watched nightly for three weeks. She also viewed tapes at the Lincoln Center library of Heather Headley, the original Tony Award-winning  AIDA. “I had four weeks to practice vocal and lines before doing the show. Each person who has had the role has taken it to a different level. I’m also trying to do that and whoever follows me will do the same,” Williams said. Williams believes she brings a more gospel style of singing to her character and it is very evident.
Williams hopes to perform the role through February 15 and continues to try to improve her performances with a little help. “I’m surviving because I have a very supportive cast. That’s the only way I’m getting better. I get notes on my mistakes after performances and I take them as constructive criticism and use them to help me to improve. I definitely want to do Broadway again,” said Williams.
The immensely talented cast of lead role players who work with Williams include Will Chase as Radames, the Egyptian captain who captures the Nubian princess Aida and her people and falls in love with this strong-willed and beautiful character. Mandy Gonzalez, the ever- neglected Amneris, the Egyptian princess engaged to marry Radames for several years. She focuses on fashion and her appearance to occupy her time. She is a character that suffers from loving a man who does not choose to give her the time of day. Donnie Kehr plays Radames father, the ruthless, power-hungry Zoser. African- American actor Delisco is the comic relief in the show and is a slave to Radames. These cast members’ impeccable performances combined with the powerful songs and outstanding choreography of Wayne Cilento, and marvelous direction by Robert Falls, makes this play an impressive production to take on.
Go see “AIDA” and enjoy.
Latin Passion Ignites On Broadway
Actor Jimmy Smits smolders with passion in Anna In The Tropics on Broadway at the Royale Theater. Smits plays a lector, a person traditionally employed at a Cuban cigar factory who reads novels to the workers as they hand roll cigars. Smits’ character, Juan Julian captures more than the attention of the workers at the cigar factory in Tampa, Florida, in 1929.
The factory is owned by Santiago (played by Victor Argo), who is from Cuba. His workers are his family-Ofelia, his wife (played by Priscilla Lopez); their daughters Conchita (played by Daphne Rubin-Vega) and Marela (played by Vanessa Aspillaga); Palomo, Conchita’s husband (played by John Ortiz) and Cheche, Santiago’s half brother (played by David Zayas).
There are problems that the family members face, which are kept covered until Juan Julian begins to read the novelAnna Karenina.  As problems are revealed passions and pain ignite.
Playwright Nilo Cruz not only delivers an interesting, creative story, it is also educational. It explains the Cuban tradition of using a lector and some Cuban cultural beliefs.
There is absolutely nothing predictable about this play. Cruz dramatically builds it moment by moment, assisted with the precise direction of Emily Mann.
Go and enjoy Anna In The Tropics.