Love stories come in all shapes and sizes. There are those that end happily and those that don’t. Aida is not one of the happy ones. The plot resembles a Shakespeare tragedy more than a Disney tale, but the execution and production of the musical are quite similar to the latter.
Based on an opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, the Tim Rice/Elton John collaboration brings the classic tale to more contemporary times. Now a Broadway production, Aida is sure to attract audiences in a time when musicals are all the rage.
Aida is a tale of two lovers, doomed to death, who try to overcome their societies to be together. Radames (Jeremy Kushnier) is the captain of the Egyptian Army trying to conquer the lands surrounding Egypt. One of the lands his ships sail to is Nubia. There, they pick up a batch of new slaves, one of whom is Aida (Paulette Ivory), a Nubian princess. Radames takes the slaves back to Egypt as a gift to the Pharaoh’s daughter, to whom he is betrothed.
But when he picks up the slaves, Aida stands out from the rest — she tries to regain her freedom, she disregards Radames’ orders, and captures his attention by her pride and charming arrogance. He has no choice but to fall in love with her.
Although she tries to resist it, Aida begins to reciprocate the feeling.
Her love for Radames grows, even though she is constantly serving her mistress, the princess Amneris (Lisa Brescia), the princess to whom Radames is engaged.
Completing the cast is Micky Dolenz (famous for being one of the Monkees), as Radames’ father, Zoser, the villain. He plots to kill the pharaoh, wants his son to marry against his will and causes death and suffering in the Egyptian kingdom.
The story is engaging — the conflicts, although somewhat typical, capture the audience’s attention, and the songs are sung with emotion. The voices of all the main characters are stunning, but Ivory steals the show in the title role. She sings with fervor and her solo performances are breathtaking. To Ivory’s fans this comes as no surprise — she has performed many Broadway parts and she has had a No. 1 single in Japan, with the band Think Twice.
It may be that Elton John has fallen into a rut. The music seems like a sequel to the Lion King soundtrack.
The score is appealing, but tends to reserve itself to the use of electronic equipment, rather than the use of the entire orchestra.
The choreography is interesting. It is all well arranged, fits the characters and scenes and works beautifully with the music. All, except for maybe the dance of the ministers, where it seems like the Egyptian court seems more of a boy band than a set of important officials.
Also, the haphazard mix of choreography of the dances from anywhere in the Middle East (and even India) seems like a stretch.
For once, Disney has overcome its urge to change the tragic ending to happy one, like it did with The Little Mermaid. However, the audience still leaves with a positive last impression. The writers have found a way to get what they want without changing the original story — the characters of Aida and Radames are reunited in contemporary times through some form of reincarnation.
Overall, the audience will surely leave Aida happy. The story is moving, the choreography is captivating, the set design is creative and the acting and singing are spectacular. But this feeling fades fast, because even though the musical has many positive attributes and is enjoyable, it’s as easily forgettable.
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