Stage preview: Pittsburgh CLO's 'Aida' casts 'Hamilton' and 'Mormon' vets
July 24, 2016 12:00 AM
Emmy Raver-Lampman, whose most recent job was as an ensemble member and understudy for "Hamilton," will play the title role in the Pittsburgh CLO production of "Elton John's Aida," opening Tuesday.
Mark Evans, the Welsh actor who headlined the first "The Book of Mormon" national tour, will play Ramses in the Pittsburgh CLO production of "Elton John's Aida."
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Between them, Emmy Raver-Lampman and Mark Evans have acted in three of the top box-office and critical successes of the past decade, something to bond over as they prepare to play star-crossed lovers in “Elton John’s Aida” for Pittsburgh CLO.
Ms. Raver-Lampman spent a year as an ensemble player and understudy in Broadway’s “Hamilton,” and Mr. Evans launched the tour of “The Book of Mormon” as Elder Price. She also defied gravity on the “Wicked” tour, making her debut as Elphaba in Pittsburgh, while the Welsh actor played “Wicked’s” Fiyero in London’s West End.
She is a veteran of four Broadway musicals, and he is a regular on London’s West End, but “Aida” is new to them, as it is to Pittsburgh CLO’s roster of shows.
“I mean, it’s Romeo and Juliet; it’s Tony and Maria,” said Mr. Evans, who will play Radames, the Egyptian captain who is betrothed to the Princess Amneris (Kathryn Boswell) but loves the Nubian captive Aida. Said the woman who will play Aida, “It’s the oldest love story ever told — lovers who shouldn’t be together, can’t be together.”
‘Elton John’s Aida’
Where: Benedum Center, Downtown.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $25-$80; pittsburghclo.org or 412-456-6666.
The actress left “Hamilton” to pursue a project that she had been in since its workshop, the “SpongeBob SquarePants” musical, which finished a pre-Broadway run in Chicago July 3. She and her co-star first met in March, during auditions.
“I auditioned for a couple of shows for PCLO, and this is the one I really wanted,” Mr. Evans said of “Aida.” “I was excited to get the callback, especially because I could kind of tell she was going to get it,” he said.
Ms. Raver-Lampman spent a month in Pittsburgh while preparing to play Elphaba, so the Benedum Center feels a bit like coming home. This time around, the principals of the “Aida” triangle are living in the same apartment building, and they have been running lines and getting to know one another during rooftop gatherings.
They also shared stories about the two megahits they have been a part of, with Ms. Raver-Lampman saying it took her more than a month to decide to leave “Hamilton” for “SpongeBob,” a show where she had originated the role of Pearl. She left after the cast visited the White House and performed during the Grammy Awards but before the Tonys.
Every member of “Hamilton” has had to answer a question about favorite visitors to the show. Ms. Raver-Lampman’s answer was also the answer to her most memorable moment: “The first time that my friend Barack decided to come to the show,” she said, giddy as she recalled President Obama’s Broadway entrance.
Mr. Evans had only visited New York City when he began “The Book of Mormon” tour that would take him to Pittsburgh, among 36 cities in 26 states. One of his memorable moments came during the stop in Orlando, Fla., long before the terrible attack there. His character in the show sings of his adoration for the city.
“I sang it for the first time in Orlando, and [Christopher John O’Neill], who was my Elder Cunningham, went, ‘Dude, you were so pitchy.’ The adrenaline must have kicked in,” he recalled. “And that was the [fundraising] Broadway Cares week, so people donate money to have their picture taken with you, and so many people were like, ‘Do you change the name in every city?’ I’m like, ‘No! It’s because he loves Orlando. It’s fun! It’s Disney!’ ”
They also might have been shocked at his Welsh accent, as many were during Broadway Cares week here in Pittsburgh. He will use his accomplished American accent in “Aida,” a show he has never seen performed. While the cast was learning their parts, they also learned last week that the production was growing — they will be joined onstage by the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church choir during the song “Gods Love Nubia” throughout the run.
Ms. Raver-Lampman attended “Aida” twice on Broadway, when Heather Headley won a Tony Award in the title role, opposite Adam Pascal and Sherie Rene Scott. She said that later, listening to the cast album, she was drawn to Amneris’ songs.
“It wasn’t until recently that I even considered doing the show,” she said. “It is a good fit, and you can tap into so many different shades of your voice, which I really like. There are really tender moments [Mr. Evans sighs at this], and there are wailing moments. You can take a big chomp out of it.”
“I was a fan of the music,” Mr. Evans said. “So I would listen to the cast recording and just belt it out, but I never really knew how the songs fit in the story.”
Now that he knows, “the story is awesome,” he said, “and the music … anytime you can do a musical by Elton John and Tim Rice, congratulations!”
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
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