She became a household name as a member of the Beyoncé-led girl group Destiny’s Child. But with her performance in the title role of The Muny’s 98th season finale of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida,” Michelle Williams proves to be a star in her own right.
The role of Aida is a familiar one for Williams. She made her Broadway debut in the role when she replaced Toni Braxton back in 2003.
For Monday’s opening night, Williams was met with a rousing applause as she made her final bow.
She and the ensemble were worthy of the ovation.
‘Aida’ is a story of forbidden love that manages to grow behind enemy lines between an enslaved Nubian princess and her Egyptian captor.
Their unbreakable bond shifts the atmosphere and rewrites the destiny of the lovers and their warring native lands.
For the music of “Aida,” John’s rock/pop ballad formula that made him an international star pays off in attracting a universal audience – which explains the musical’s phenomenal Tony-winning run on Broadway.
The Muny picks up where Broadway left off. Enlisting Williams to resume the role was the icing on the cake for the solid production.
She lived up to the hype in the title role – which she peppers the show with her signature soulful, gospel inspired breathy soprano – but the success of The Muny’s adaptation of “Aida” is a team effort.
Co-star Zak Resnick’s Radames gelled especially well with Williams’ Aida – and the two shared a vocal chemistry that matched the energy of their connected stage presence.
Broadway veteran and St. Louis native Ken Page was a crowd favorite with his brief, but impactful performance of Nubian king Amonarso. Meanwhile, Wonza Johnson delivered the type of performance usually reserved for breakout stars with his portrayal of the enslaved Nubian Mereb. Williams graciously gave him the liberty to flex his own vocal prowess on their duet “How I Know You,” and Johnson rises above and beyond the challenge. In addition to his strong vocals, Johnson’s knack for comedic timing made him the most enjoyable to watch among the supporting cast.
Director Matt Lenz created a wonderful cohesion for The Muny’s “Aida.” And enough can’t be said for the technical staff that makes miracles happen every week of the company’s summer run with respect to delivering the type of production value could hold its own against any full season musical theatre company.
Though one can only be amazed by the standard of excellence the Muny manages to deliver in spite of the relentless pace of its season, there were a couple of minor shortcomings in the production of “Aida.”
The dance sequences – particularly the opening and closing routines – could have used a bit more synchronization.
But the biggest hiccup lies in the presentation of Egyptian princess Amneris. Much of the character’s presence seems mix-matched for the overall theme of “Aida.” It could have been a part of the original Broadway show’s format, but inserting a character seemingly inspired by a Texas prom queen (big blond hair and all) as a pharaoh’s daughter, just didn’t fit. Taylor Louderman’s performance – which includes commendable vocals and authentic performance – is actually an asset. But the hair, costume and overall persona of the character as it is interpreted subtracts from the authentic experience the show otherwise provides.
Source: STL American
Michelle Williams recently filmed a commercial with current NBA star Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and former NBA champion Horace Grant for a campaign called “Stand Out” for ‘Foot Locker’. In the commercial, Michelle overhears Draymond and Horace talking about how to stand out and be unique in your own way. The commercial has a funny twist at the end! See for yourself:
Grammy-winning singer Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame came to the production of “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida,” opening Monday at the Muny, with something key. She’d played the title role in the hit musical to acclaim on Broadway in 2003.
But the Chicago-area native didn’t want to approach rehearsals wearing that on her sleeves.
“I didn’t want to come in like ‘I’ve done this already.’ I wanted to come in fresh. But it did help that I did it before. Some natural blocking came back to me, and that helped the director,” Williams said last week in an interview at the Muny offices during a break from rehearsals.
When Williams was approached with an offer to reprise “Aida” at the Muny for its season-ending production, she says, “I was very excited to do it again. I’m a lot older now, and I wondered what have I learned. Has anything within those 13 years happened that I can put into the character?”
That’s the approach she takes with every show she has done, roles in productions of “The Color Purple,” “Chicago,” “Fela!” and “What My Husband Doesn’t Know.”
In “Aida,” Williams stars as one half of a star-crossed love affair between Aida, the captured princess of Nubia, and Radames, the Egyptian captain who enslaved her people. Zak Resnick plays Radames.
“Whenever I do a show, it imitates what I’m going through at the moment. It’s great therapy,” she says. “I’ve been in a few failed relationships, ones where you have to let it go but you don’t want to let it go. Aida is in love with this man, and things are crazy.”
When she played Shug Avery in the first national tour of “The Color Purple,” she says, she was on the tail end of Destiny’s Child and learning what it meant to strike out on her own. The group of Williams, Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland disbanded in 2006.
“It taught me about being a woman outside of a group. I had been used to handlers and people taking care of things for you.”
Before the Muny production, Williams had recurring dreams of revisiting a theater role, but those dreams were actually of “Chicago.”
“I pay attention to stuff like that. I knew I was about to do something. When they offered me ‘Aida,’ I didn’t hesitate,” she says.
One of the first calls she made was to Heather Headley, who won a Tony Award for portraying Aida on Broadway before Williams and who starred in the Muny production of “Into the Woods” in 2015.
“I adore Heather. She said I absolutely have to do it. She talked about how she enjoyed herself and how beautiful (the Muny) was, so gorgeous. She said ‘You’re gonna do great.’ ”
She says the difference between doing the musical on Broadway and at the Muny is that on Broadway she was dropped into a show that was already up and running. At the Muny, the show was built from the ground up with her.
“This way I’m having new discoveries,” she says.
Those discoveries are playing out more than they ever did on Broadway. “A lot of the lines are really about our people (African-Americans). We are going through so much with our people. Some of the lines are nervous to say because sometimes it’s so black vs. white now. It’s like ‘how can I use this to be a voice somehow? Can Aida be a voice?’” she asks.
“The purpose is bigger than this love thing going on. Yes, let love come when it’s right. Until then, be about your purpose.”
Williams, while making her name in one of the best-selling groups of all time, is in a place in her life where her work in theater is more meaningful to her than being a popular singer.
“I think I’ve done enough to where I’d pick theater. I can do pressure, but the pressure to be an artist is not something I want to do anymore unless I’m doing it with Destiny’s Child, and it’s fun because it’s with your girls,” she says.
Emerging as a legitimate actor is a bit of a comeback for Williams. In her junior high school days, she couldn’t get cast in productions such as “Hello, Dolly” and “Li’l Abner.
“I wanted to be Daisy Mae,” she says. “When the offer came for the first time to do ‘Aida’ in 2003, I said, ‘I get to do it. No longer am I auditioning.’ Sometimes I might have been discouraged but God made a way. He led me to it. Rejection can either discourage you or propel you.”
Williams says her last album, the gospel effort “Journey to Freedom” (2014) featuring “Say Yes,” was her swan song as a recording artist.
“Right now I feel I’ve said everything I had to say on ‘Journey to Freedom.’ On that album, I needed to get free from things, from opinions, from what everyone else has to say. Let me live.”
After “Aida,” Williams’ plans include a book on her journey and the importance of listening to her inner voice, as well as continuing to produce Believe at Home, her bedding and home goods line.
Still, if something great comes her way, such as a collaboration, she could jump back in for a one-off.
And if that ever happens to be a Destiny’s Child reunion, she’s in. Watching the Muny production of “Fiddler on the Roof” while she was rehearsing for “Aida,” she says, a scene with three girls reminded her of Destiny’s Child.
“It’s weird. We’re together a lot but not one time have we talked about it. If we do, we do; if we don’t, we don’t. We’re just glad to have a relationship. I know what’s going on in their lives, and they know every detail of my life, ” says Williams, who has caught Beyoncé’s “Formation” tour a couple of times.
What “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida” • When 8:15 nightly, Monday through Aug. 14 • Where The Muny, 1 Theater Drive, Forest Park • How much $14-$90 • More info 314-361-1900; muny.org
Source: STL Today
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