Originally created 05/06/04

'Aida' closing on Broadway in September



NEW YORK -- Disney's "Aida" is pulling down its pyramid and leaving Broadway.

The pop musical version of the ancient Egyptian love triangle, which has a score by Elton John and Tim Rice, will close Sept. 5 at the Palace Theatre after 1,852 performances.

"We have had a great run - it will have been four-and-a-half years," Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "We have recouped, made money and launched an international franchise."

Yet Schumacher said he didn't want "Aida" to face the gloomy box-office months of September, October and early November when business is generally poor. "I'd lose all the money I'll make during the summer," he said.

The show, which currently stars rhythm and blues star Deborah Cox in New York, also has productions playing in Germany and Japan. The international tour will begin in 2005, Schumacher said.

According to Schumacher, the New York edition has grossed over $150 million, generating more than $12 million in profits and been seen by over 2.5 million people.

"Aida," which originally starred Heather Headley, tells the story of a Nubian princess and her love for a handsome Egyptian soldier, Radames, who is also loved by the Egyptian princess Amneris.

Headley was followed in the title role on Broadway by Maya Days and a series of pop stars including Simone, Toni Braxton, Michelle T. Williams and now Cox.

Schumacher said that Adam Pascal, the musical's original Radames, will rejoin the show in late June for the remainder of its run.

"Aida" has had something of a Cinderella life on Broadway. It opened to mixed reviews in March 2000 and wasn't nominated for a best musical Tony Award that season, so it didn't get a musical number on the Tony telecast.

Yet the production managed to become the longest-running show of that season, outlasting all the 2000 best-musical nominees: "Contact" (the eventual winner), "The Dead," "Swing" and "The Wild Party." And it won four Tony Awards - for Headley, for its score, its sets and lighting.

When "Aida" closes, Disney will still have two shows on Broadway - "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." And it has two major productions in the works, one to debut in London and the other on the road.

"Mary Poppins," a joint venture with Cameron Mackintosh, opens Dec. 15 at the Prince Edward Theatre in London. It will star Laura Michelle Kelly as everyone's favorite nanny. Kelly is currently on Broadway as Tevye's second daughter in the revival of "Fiddler on the Roof."

Schumacher will also have "On the Record," a new musical celebrating songs from Disney movies, touring the country next season.

"The show is set in a fantasy recording studio - the recording of the ultimate two-disc Disney compilation," Schumacher said. "There's no spoken dialogue but it definitely tells a story."

"On the Record" already has had a reading in New York, with a workshop planned in two weeks. The production, directed, choreographed and co-conceived by Robert Longbottom, opens at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland on Nov. 9.