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Disney through the eyes of teens
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
|Aida - The Timeless Love Story|
“This is a story of a love that flourished in a time of hate. Of lovers no tyranny could separate. Love set into motion on the Nile’s shore, destiny ignited by an act of war.” –Amneris ‘Every Story Is A Love Story.’ As these words are sung, one of the most elaborate and impressive musicals I have ever seen began to filter onto the Ahmanson Theater stage. Aida is a classic love story about star-crossed lovers, betrayal, trust and redemption. It is truly the most amazing show I have seen on stage and I look forward to seeing it again.
As the curtain rises, the Egyptian wing of a museum is revealed where numerous tourists look in awe at the exhibits. Two of these tourists happen to catch each other’s eyes as the spirit of the Egyptian princess Amneris comes to life and sings a song about Ancient Egypt and Nubia. At that, we are transported back in time to Egypt where the Captain of the Egyptian Army, Radames, returns from a long conquest through their southern neighbor, Nubia. Among the numerous items captured, a group of women are brought into slavery. One of these women is Aida and, though she keeps her identity a secret, she is really the daughter of the Nubian King.
Radames, intrigued by Aida, sends her to be a personal slave to the Egyptian princess, his betrothed Amneris rather than send her to the copper mines. Zoser, Rademes’ father, comes to his son to inform him that the Egyptian Pharaoh is fatally ill and that he and Amneris will ascend to be the rulers of Egypt. The Nubian slaves realize that Aida is the Nubian princess, but she tells them that nobody must find out or she will be killed. Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter, is somewhat self-centered, spoiled and highly interested in fashion. Aida, however, sees through this and realizes that the princess is really insecure and unsure how to be a ruler. While trying to help her, they become friends.
At a banquet, the Pharaoh announces that Rademes and Amneris, after being engaged for nine years, will wed in a week. Radames is distressed realizing that his days as an explorer are numbered. Aida comforts him and makes him realize that he is not as entangled as Nubian slaves. Opening his heart to Nubians, he gives his possessions away but also declares to Aida that he has fallen in love with her. Unable to fight her feelings, she falls for him as well. Their bliss is interrupted when the Nubian King was captured. When Aida visits her father, they develop a plan to escape during the wedding of Amneris and Radames. This means that Aida will have to betray the man she loves. Unfortunately Zoser learns of the secret love affair and orders his guards to kill Aida.
At the Nubian camp, Nehebka (a Nubian slave and friend of Aida) lies to the officers and says that she is Aida. Nehebka sacrifices herself so her princess can live. Radames, still not knowing Aida’s origin and plan, says that he will call off his wedding for her. Realizing this would ruin their plans to escape, Aida convinces him to continue with the plans. Radames agrees on condition that she escapes to freedom on a boat. As the heart-broken lovers part, Amneris overhears their conversation and realizes that her marriage is a sham.
At Amneris’ and Radames’ wedding, news of the Nubian king’s escape causes a major disruption. Arriving at the docks to bid Aida farewell, Radames learns the truth that Aida is a Nubian princess as she’s about to board the boat with her fathe. Zoser discovers them all there and realizes that the real Aida lives. In the chaos, the boat carrying the Nubian King is cut loose. The boat sails down the river leaving Zoser and the two lovers behind on the dock. They are arrested and tried for treason. At the trial, the Egyptian Pharaoh sentences both of them to be buried alive, but Amneris convinces her father to allow them to be buried in the same tomb together. While locked in the tomb, Radames promises Aida that he will search for a hundred lifetimes to find her again.
Back in the Egyptian wing of a museum, the tourists continue to look in awe at the exhibits. As if the whole story was a simple flashback, they continue through the exhibit. This time when the two tourists catch each other’s eyes, they don’t turn away. They look deeply into one another during a touching embrace. They are the reincarnations of Aida and Radames, finding each other again for a new beginning.
Aida is a masterpiece. It brings together a wonderful plot, entertaining music, innovative choreography and memorable characters into one fascinating Broadway performance. The story of Aida is an ancient and classic tale, but did not reach the stage until 1871 in Europe. Giuseppi Verdi wrote it as an opera. In 1998, Disney opened it off-Broadway in Atlanta under the name ‘Elaborate Lives.’ Finally, in 2000 it made its debut on Broadway in New York and created a National Touring Company shortly thereafter.
The story of Aida is very touching and memorable. I enjoyed the way the beginning and the ending fit together so well with the plot and the Egyptian’s belief of reincarnation. Entering the Ahmanson Theater I was unsure what to expect from this show because I had heard nothing about it. The only reason I decided to see it was because of the music. A complimentary sample CD I received at The Lion King contained three songs from this show: ‘My Strongest Suit,’ ‘Elaborate Lives,’ and ‘Easy As Life.’ All of these were magnificently written and composed. When the musical started off, I was a little unsure what the plot was until about a quarter through the play but when it all came together so nicely in the end of the show I was truly astonished.
The acting and singing in the show is superb. Before we entered the theater, my family and I purchased the Original Broadway Cast Recording (CD) and the official souvenir program. One of the venders outside selling the show souvenirs stated that the show wasn’t that good. She stated that, “the male lead could be a bit stronger and that the person playing Aida could very rarely hit the high note in ‘Easy as Life.’” When we learned that there were four understudies that night (for Aida, Nehebka, Radames and Mereb) my heart sank. I thought that the show wouldn’t be worth watching.
Well, the actors and actresses definitely proved me wrong. Jason Workman and Merle Dandridge did an excellent job filling in for the two leads. I was surprised they weren’t cast as the leads in the first place. Merle Dandridge hit the high note in ‘Easy As Life’ perfectly. Going home, and watching a review on television a week later, I saw the actors who usually play Radames (Patrick Cassidy) and Aida (Simone) perform Elaborate Lives. I must say that Cassidy was indeed lacking on his part. Hearing how well Workman sung this song and how shabbily Cassidy sang it was truly a crime. I believe Simone seemed to have a strong voice and did very well. Though she may not be better than Dandridge she is certainly not any worse.
The music of this magnificent show was also very true to the story for it expresses the emotions of the characters and their dilemmas but are also upbeat and entertaining. ‘Every Story Is A Love Story,’ the introduction song, is a beautiful ballad that briefly described the background history between Nubia and Egypt. It also set the pace for the entire show. ‘My Strongest Suit,’ allowed guests to see the princess in her true nature, a self-centered fashion-orientated brat. But beneath her selfish exterior, Aida sees that she is just unsure on how to behave as a princess and helps her through her problems since they both relate to each other so well.
‘Elaborate Lives’ is a moving love song which shows the love and mysterious bond between Radames and Aida while ‘Easy as Life’ is a beautiful lament that allows the audience to see the problems and urgency of Aida’s mind and heart. The ending three songs (‘Elaborate Lives (Reprise),’ ‘Enchantment Passing Through (Reprise),’ and ‘Every Story Is A Love Story (Reprise)’) are mixed together incredibly well. I couldn’t help but feel sorrow for the two lovers and Amneris. It also served as an incredible finale to this incredible show. Each song had an undertone to it in the music and the lyrics that moved the story along emotionally. All of the songs written told a story of their own.
The scenic design for this show is also astounding. As the energy changed in the story, the mood and color changed as well. At darker and more complicated times in the plot, a dark backdrop is placed but during the lighter and happier times of the plot, there is a happier canvas. As the story begins in the museum,. the exhibits, costumes and backdrop are completely white to resemble the present. When Amneris led the transition into the past, a deep red and orange filled the different backdrops.. Lighting the backdrop may have been the simplest thing to do for the show, but it made a huge contribution to feelings and emotion.
Overall, Aida was the best Disney Broadway show I have seen. It won four Tony awards including the award for Best Music and a Grammy for the best album for a musical show. This show is three times as better as The Lion King and twice as good as Beauty and the Beast. It contains a wonderful plot, entertaining music, amazing sets and illusions. The memories left me wanting more. Listening to the Original Cast Recording, I realize that going to see it just once is not enough. Seeing this musical is worth all effort and will definitely inspire you.
“From deep within the tomb, a gentle light still shone. Showing me my path as I ascended to the throne. Certain in my hearts that ancient wars must cease, the lovers death gave birth to a reign of peace. And their story, and my journey, and the lesson they provide. Draw their strength and inspiration, from a love that never died.” –Amneris, ‘Every Story Is A Love Story (Reprise)
You can visit the official Disney website for the show
Playdates: November 7, 2001 - January 5, 2002
At: The Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Ahmanson Theater website: www.taperahmanson.com
Ticket Info: (213) 628-2772
I am thirteen years old and live with my family in Southern California. I am currently a high school student, and an avid fan of Disneyland Resort. Other than visiting the "Happiest Place On Earth," I have numerous hobbies, the most significant of which is acting.
Acting has always been a major hobby of mine. I have been participating in numerous plays, movies and productions all of my life, and hope to eventually accomplish my dreams of becoming a famous actor. Some of my recent works include productions of The King and I, Shakespeare- Enough Already, and Ebeneezer. Other than acting, I enjoy playing the alto saxophone for my high school jazz band, playing the keyboard / piano, listening to music (especially the Rent soundtrack), and visiting the Disneyland Resort.
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