Walk Like an Egyptian
Having grown up with not one but two Partridges — mother Shirley Jones, who played Mrs., and brother David as teen idol Keith — Patrick Cassidy was probably never destined to pursue anything but show business. “I was surrounded by pop music and musical theater from the time I was born,” he says of the family that also included his Broadway-veteran father, Jack. “And nothing I’ve ever done has merged rock and roll and legitimate straight theater acting like Aida.”
Elton John and Tim Rice’s pop version of the Verdi opera, which opens Starlight’s 2001 season on June 27, brings Cassidy back to the stage he trod upon at the age of fifteen, when he performed in The Sound of Music with his mom. This time around, Cassidy plays Radames, the Egyptian nobleman who is expected to marry the haughty white princess Amneris but who falls instead for her black servant, Aida, played by Simone (daughter of another musical legend, Nina Simone).
The interracial romance still has the potential to stir controversy, but Cassidy is undaunted. “This show is not about color. It’s about love: how love shows no sense of color or race or sex, how true love is your destiny. If people have a problem with that, then they’re the problem.”
Cassidy’s career has meandered from the stage to films such as Longtime Companion and television series such as Lois & Clark. He considers his work as the Balladeer in the tiny off-Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins to be “the most incredible thing I’ve ever been involved with.” The production’s cache of sunny anthems about murder offended enough audiences to prevent it from making the jump to Broadway; Cassidy says the fact that the piece is now getting the production it deserves is “bittersweet.” A decade ago, he explains, “the Gulf War broke out and people were afraid of seeing a show where people sing, ‘C’mere and kill a president.'”
He says he nailed the Aida part after playing Frank Butler to Cheryl Ladd’s Annie Oakley in the Broadway revival of Annie, Get Your Gun. The prospect of singing Elton John songs eight times a week while touring “is glorious. I was a huge Elton John fan growing up,” Cassidy says.
“While the songs aren’t difficult like singing Sondheim is difficult, they are rangy,” he adds. “You think Assassins was high? This is high. But when I saw Adam Pascal do it on Broadway, I thought, ‘That really fits me. I can do something with this.'” Variety seems to agree; its review of the tour stop in St. Louis last month called Cassidy’s Radames “a sweeter, warmer, more emotional presence.”
Cassidy says it’s a gas to be in a touring show that so faithfully replicates its Broadway original. “Unless you’ve seen the Broadway production ten times and know all of the inner workings, you won’t notice any changes,” he says. “And the sound system has been boosted — it’s the most elaborate sound system I’ve ever heard.”
Cassidy says he remembers Starlight Theatre as being “huge.” And hearing about last year’s $10 million renovation caused him to double-check: “It’s still outdoors, right?”