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Aida, Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Elton John and Tim Rice's rock musical turns out to be more melodramatic than Verdi's 1871 opera. (We won't begin to compare the music.) Since these easy-listening pop ballads seldom relate to the story, it's bewildering how automatically Nubian slave princess Aida falls for slumming Egyptian prince Radames. More amazing is how betrayal instantly transforms Aida's rival--Amneris, an airhead Nile Valley girl as dated as the stock market bubble of 2000--into a wise and patient future ruler. And since Disney shows aim for relevance rather than historical accuracy, gospel and pseudoprimitive anthems create a pop-centric Nubia. An irrelevant generation-gap subplot further isolates our Romeo and Juliet from their families.

Director Robert Falls tries to camouflage the script's improbabilities with attractive palm-fringed riverfront silhouettes, anachronistic fashion shows, imaginative swimming pools, and strident singing. Wayne Cilento's ersatz Egyptian and African choreography creates a gorgeously orchestrated rock concert set in an ancient theme park. In this touring version--the show also appeared here in late 1999, before its Broadway opening--Paulette Ivory as Aida lacks Heather Headley's sensuality and multifaceted passions but sings up a sandstorm. Jeremy Kushnier is merely a tenor with a good sound system--a far cry from Adam Pascal's hunky Radames. Saddled with the woefully stereotypical role of Amneris, Kelli Fournier moves efficiently from trust-fund idiot to majestic mummy.

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