There aren’t a lot of camels, date palms, or pyramids in Uphams Corner, but when the Fiddlehead Theatre Company debuts its production of “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida” next Friday, Oct. 17, the Strand Theatre, the grande dame of Columbia Road, should be out-Cleopatra-ing the Queen of the Nile herself with the hit musical’s retro-Egyptian enchantments.
This lavish production, which will run for two weekends only (Oct.17-26), marks Fiddlehead’s kickoff to its second season as resident company at the Strand. Previous well-received Fiddlehead musicals there include “A Little Princess” (2013) and “Ragtime” (2012).
Ta’Nika Gibson, who has the title role, got a preview of what a jam-packed Strand house looks like last Friday when she sang the national anthem a cappella for First Lady Michelle Obama and other honored guests.
Gibson’s many years of classical voice training will be tested by the demands of her part as the captured Ethiopian princess who falls into a star-crossed love triangle with the Egyptian soldier Radames. She has to belt out 13 songs ranging from gospel to Motown to reggae in a score that reflects the same ethnically diverse style as John used in his score for “The Lion King.” Her favorite, though, she confides, is the soaring love duet “Elaborate Lives.”
Among the rest of her other highly talented co-stars are two Equity artists: Christiana Rodi as Amneris, an Egyptian princess and Radames’s official fiancée, and Dallyn Vail Bayles as the Pharaoh. In the male ensemble, and in his third Fiddlehead/Strand show, is firefighter/Dorchester resident Dwaine Devonish Daye.
“Aida” will be presented in collaboration with AIDS Action Committee, with five percent of every ticket sold going to support AAC’s programs. Fiddlehead chose that charity to benefit partly because Sir John’s non-profit has raised over $200 million for its cause.
Said Rock singer/musical actor Gene Dante, who plays the Egyptian captain Radames: “It’s incredibly gratifying to know that our ‘product’ is not only an enjoyable, quality theatrical experience, but also a contribution to HIV prevention, education/awareness, research, and resources to help those living with HIV.”
Lest parents wrongly infer that “Aida” is too “adult” a show for younger theatergoers, we hasten to remind everyone that the musical is a Disney-commissioned production inspired by operatic diva Leontyne Price’s storybook retelling of the “Aida” tale for grammar school kids. Thanks to a generous sponsor, any Boston Public School student can get a free ticket by calling the Strand box office.
“This show will be legendary,” promises Fiddlehead Producing Artistic Director Meg Fofonoff. “We are thrilled to present this exclusive Boston engagement … as the first of three spectacular pop-rock musicals at the Strand. It will be followed by “The Wiz” (Feb. 13- 2015) and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” (April 24-May 3, 2015).
Deeply discounted tickets for Dot residents are available for this pop-rock smash that won four Tony awards, including Best Musical Score, during its long-running Broadway incarnation. Tickets that normally go for up to $45 will be on sale for only $10 to Dorchester residents on a rush-ticket basis one hour before the curtain.
Tickets for non-Dorchesterites run $25-$45 each and may be purchased by calling the box office at 617-229-6494 or online at fiddleheadtheatre.com. In addition, student, senior, and group discounts are available.