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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:04 GMT
Sir Elton's Aida hits Broadway
Sir Tim Rice and Sir Elton John
Sir Tim Rice gets a kiss from Sir Elton John at the premiere
Aida, the new musical from Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice, has opened in New York to lukewarm reviews.

The troubled production, backed by Disney, has been over four years in the making, and originally premiered in October 1998 in Atlanta.

Adam Pascal and Heather Headley
Praise: Aida stars Adam Pascal and Heather Headley
But it proved to be a critical flop following set problems and the plug was pulled after just a month.

After a major revamp, the title was shortened from Elaborate Lives: The Legend Of Aida, and had a tryout run in Chicago in December 1999.

Sir Elton's music and Sir Tim's words have stayed in the show, while new director Robert Falls has tweaked the plot, which contrasts the love story of Aida, a Nubian princess, and Radames, an Egyptian soldier engaged to marry a pharaoh's daughter, with scenes set in the present.

Celebrity bash

On Thursday night, the musical knights arrived at the premiere at the Palace Theatre, which was also attended by US television personalities Rosie O'Donnell and Barbara Walters, as well as actress Heather Locklear with rock musician husband Richie Sambora.

Disney chief executive Michael Eisner appeared as well - Aida is the company's first musical to open in New York since The Lion King. However, the show appears under the name of Disney's new division for 'mature' productions, Hyperion.

Michael Eisner
Important premiere: Disney boss Michael Eisner
Sir Elton stormed out a preview of the show in February, unhappy with the arrangements for two of his songs.

But on Thursday night he told reporters: "It's now a wonderful show, and I'm very pleased with it."

New York's reviewers are pleased with the changes made to the show, but while praising the performances of Heather Headley as Aida, they still only gave it a cautious welcome.

Donald Lyons in the New York Post awarded it two stars, concluding that it achieved allure "only in its deliberately comic moments; it's tragic and political passages have not been rethought so drastically and suffer by comparison".

The score might have been assembled from a 'make your own Elton John song' software program

Reviewer Ben Brantley
The New York Times' Ben Brantley called it a "Disney cartoon pretending to be a Broadway musical", adding: "Pretty much everything that's right about Aida can be summed up in two works: Heather Headley".

He also criticised the score, saying it "might have been assembled from a 'make your own Elton John song' software program".

However, Sir Tim Rice is not likely to be bothered by the reviews.

Before the show opened, he told the New York Daily News: "The critics don't matter. Evita got absolutely slaughtered, The Phantom of The Opera got very bad reviews, yet they were both big hits.

"The only thing that matters with any show is word of mouth."

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See also:

04 Dec 99 | Tom Brook
Disney's Aida resurfaces
23 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Sir Elton's historic tour
25 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Fantasia's millennium makeover
14 Oct 98 | Middle East
Aida comes home
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