Part 3 in a 100-Part Series of "Broadway Shows Maryann Will Never Forgive Herself for Not Seeing"


Aida.  No, not Verdi's Italian opera itself, though I'm sure its nice, but the musical based on it with songs written by two of the best: lyricist Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Chess) and musician Elton John (one of the greatest songwriters of all time--see, or rather, listen: Madman Across the Water).  

The show premiered on Broadway on March 23, 2000 and ran for 1,852 performances, zero of which I was able to bring myself to.  My good friends Melody and Ryan went to Spokane a year ago to see the national tour, and even then I decided I'd rather do something else.  Foolish, foolish Maryann.

The original cast features at least one familiar face, depending on what you are um, familiar with.  If you are familiar with musicals, or at least RENT, then you will recognize the male lead: Adam Pascal (the original and film Roger).  After he did RENT (a role for which he was nominated for a Tony), he replaced someone to play the MC in Cabaret.  Can't say I can picture him in that role, but then that's the sign of a good actor, no?  His next role was in Aida.  The female lead is Heather Headley, a fairly established Grammy-nominated R&B singer from Trinidad.  But she also has experience as the original Nala from the musical The Lion King, as well as Dreamgirls.  Heather won a very well-deserved Tony for best actress in a musical for her role as Aida.

Directed by Robert Falls and choreographed by Wayne Cilento, the story starts out with two modern day people in a museum who find a statue of Amneris (Sherie Scott), another main character.  She transports us (by song of course!) back to ancient Egypt.  Her character, a princess, is engaged to the Egyptian captain of the guard, Radames (Pascal).  His father is the Chief Minister to the Pharaoh, Amneris' father.  Anyway, he ends up capturing some women from Nubia, a nation conquered by Egypt.  But one of them stands out, the fiercely proud and headstrong Aida.  Turns out Aida is a princess too, as Radames' Nubian servant Mereb recognizes but keeps secret for her safety.  Aida is given to the vain Amneris as a servant, and Radames' learns he has to marry her sooner than he thought.  He and Aida bond over their failed lives.

Unfortunately they are attracted to each other, which makes everyone's lives harder.  Radames' army has captured Aida's father, and her people are made into slaves.  They call on Aida to help them.  But she's torn between her love-from-another-world and her duty to her people and country.  On the other hand, Amneris is actually really insecure and confides in Aida.  Radames' is torn between his job/fiancee and new found love-from-another-world.  To find out what happens you'll have to swear to stage an amateur production with me.  Or go here.  Your choice.

Elton samples multiple styles of music for the show: reggae, motown, gospel, but my favorite songs I have to admit on the ones that feature his 'strongest suit': pop.  My top five songs in order of loving:

1) Not Me ("I shall not envy lovers, but long for what they share")
2) A Step Too Far ("I could be his life's companion anywhere but where we are")
3) The Past is Now Another Land ("a moment leading nowhere, too pointless to be sad")
4) Easy as Life ("all I have to do is pretend I never knew him, on those very rare occasions when he steals into my heart")
5) My Strongest Suit ("I would rather wear a barrel than conservative apparel")

 Other favorites include "The Gods Love Nubia", "Enchantment Passing Through", "How I Know You", "Dance of the Robe", and "Written in the Stars."  If you are looking for duets or goods songs for trios (I was tempted to say 'threesomes'), look no further, or at least look first, to Aida.  It won Tonys for best original score, and best scenic, lighting, and costume design.  Not to mention a Grammy for its soundtrack.

There was a rumor back in July about Disney (who owns and produced the show) courting Beyonce for a film version as a follow up to Dreamgirls (2006).  I think this is a great idea.  But then, I am almost always ready to give my heart to any film version of a musical.  All I really ask is that they keep my favorite songs, don't misscast important characters--which means use original cast members whenever possible, re-imagine the show in ways the stage version didn't, involve the creators/writers/fans, and finally, create a soundtrack that's at least half as good as the original cast recording. 

Well, here's to another first-class misstep by me to not see this baby.  It's probably one of the best musicals to come out of the 2000s so far, especially not made from a movie (I'm sorry, but let's try some different sources, Ok?).  It makes me wonder what incredible performances playing on Broadway that I'm missing right now.  Thank goodness I live in a time of technology in which I can listen to the cast albums and watch most of the shows on youtube.

Below is a promo montage for the musical featuring the original cast and many of the best songs.  Enjoy!

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