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Theatre / Aida (John/Rice)

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"This is a story of a love that flourished in a time of hate
Of lovers no tyranny could separate"
- Amneris, "Every Story is a Love Story."

Aida is a musical based on Verdi's opera of the same name, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. It premiered on Broadway in 2000, garnering five Tony Award nominations, of which it won all but one, including Best Original Score and Best Actress in a Musical (Heather Headley as Aida).

The title character, Aida, is the Princess of Nubia. Her country has been invaded by the neighboring Egyptians, and their captain, Radames, captures her with a group of women, and not recognizing her, brings them back to Egypt. Aida becomes a slave to Egyptian Princess Amneris, who is betrothed to Radames. Another slave in the palace, Mereb, recognizes Aida and reveals her to the other captives, who beg her to lead them to freedom. As time goes on, Aida finds herself developing feelings for Radames, a development which is further complicated when her father, the king of Nubia, is arrested.

Rumours of it being filmed by Disney circulated in 2007, with Beyoncé as Aida and Christina Aguilera as Amneris, but nothing more has ever been announced. Since the film was supposed to release in 2010 and hasn't started production, it's likely that it got swallowed up in Development Hell.

The musical differs from the opera in a few ways. Most notably, the opera begins with Radames and Aida already in love, while the musical depicts their first meeting and the development of their relationship. The musical also has Radames betrothed to Amneris for nearly a decade; in the opera, he's unaware that she's in love with him and the engagement is sprung on him to his complete surprise. Additionally, the opera has Radames sentenced to die for revealing the plans of the Egyptian army, and Aida, who had gotten away sneaking into his tomb so they can be Together in Death; in the musical, the crime is helping the Nubian king escape, and Aida fails to escape and is captured and sentenced along with him. Finally, there's the closing scene which changes the Downer Ending to a Bittersweet Ending.

This work includes examples of:

  • Action Girl: Aida herself has a lot of backbone and subdues a guard in an early scene. That said, the story isn't very action-oriented, so this aspect isn't very prominent. It's still nice to see, though.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The storyline here begins with Aida's capture and enslavement, then shows her gradually falling in love with Radames and vice-versa. Verdi's opera begins with her already Amneris's slave and with her and Radames already secretly in love. Essentially, the plot of the opera is the musical's second act, while the first act is backstory for it.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Amneris is more sympathetic and less of a Clingy Jealous Girl than in the original opera.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Radames is introduced less sympathetically than his operatic counterpart, treating the newly-enslaved Aida in a less than kind way (see Does This Remind You of Anything?, below), though he soon goes through positive Character Development as he falls in love with her.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In Verdi's opera, Aida and Amonasro are Ethiopian. The musical has them from Nubia instead.
  • Anachronism Stew: During a war planning scene, the city Khartoum is mentioned. Khartoum was not founded until 1821.
  • Arranged Marriage: Amneris and Radames are betrothed, and from her perspective it's a Perfectly Arranged Marriage, but he doesn't return her feelings.

  • Bittersweet Ending: The Nubian King escapes, at the cost of Mereb's life. Zoser is captured as a traitor, but so are Aida and Radames. A heartbroken Amneris, realizing she will soon lose everyone she has ever loved, allows Aida and Radames to be buried in the same tomb. The two die but Amneris learns from them and becomes a great and peaceful Pharaoh. Centuries later the reincarnations of Aida and Radames meet in a museum, as the spirit of Amneris looks on.
  • Buried Alive: Radames and Aida's fate is to be entombed alive together.
  • Canon Foreigner: Zoser and Mereb don't appear in Verdi's opera.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Radames tells Amneris, "I've loved you since we were children" and they've apparently been betrothed since then.
  • Concept Album: The show was born as this, with contributions from Tina Turner, Lulu and Sting, amongst others.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Aida and Radames suspect they may be this in "Written in the Stars".
  • Crowd Song: "Dance of the Robe", "The Gods Love Nubia"
  • Dark Reprise: "My Strongest Suit", "How I Know You", "Elaborate Lives", and "Enchantment Passing Through" all get these to some degree, but the last two are particularly blatant.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than most Disney musicals. Hotter and Sexier too—the sight of a clearly post-coital Aida and Radames can be quite shocking.
  • Disneyfication: The one who suffers most from this is Amneris. In the opera, she's a Clingy Jealous Girl who is rather ruthless to her rival in love, and they were only engaged initially because Radames had no other choice.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The imprisoned and chained Aida is alone in a room with her captor. He says "You know what happens next" as he takes off his shirt... he then orders her to wash his back.
    • A later scene (before they admit their love for each other) has them arguing and him demanding that she respect him. She snaps that he can't command her to show him affection, and he responds by outright telling her "I could have your 'affection' right here if I commanded it."
    • Plus, Aida' s slave status (and the way it happened, with her and her companions being abducted) and their racial difference seems eerily—and perhaps deliberately—reminiscent of slave days in the US.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Downplayed — Zoser's voice is most definitely not "deep," but he's still the lowest voiced of the male cast (being a bari-tenor as opposed to Radames' and Mereb's firm Tenor Boy-ness).
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Every Story Is A Love Story" turns into "Fortune Favors The Brave". On the original cast recording, one can even hear Amneris singing the final note of the first song as the second one begins.
  • The Fashionista: Amneris. Her first number is a huge "I Am" Song about it.
  • Faux Action Girl: Maybe if Aida, who supposedly has skill with a sword, had done something during the climactic fight at the end, Mereb wouldn't have died.
    • Faux Action Guy: Same goes for Radames, the literal army general who also doesn't do much anything in the same big skirmish at the end.
  • Final Love Duet: "Elaborate Lives (Reprise)" for Radames and Aida. Or, probably actually "Enchantment Passing Through (Reprise)" sung as the two lovers are dying from loss of oxygen whilst being buried alive for treason.
  • Framing Device: It begins and ends in a modern day museum, with the reincarnated Radames and Aida being drawn to each other.
  • The Ditz: Subverted with Amneris. She initially seems to be this, but later admits that she's really just playing the role people expect of her.
  • The High Queen: Amneris becomes Pharaoh at the end.
  • I Am Not My Father: Radames is very, very determined that this is the case.
  • "I Am" Song: "My Strongest Suit"
  • I Am Spartacus: When Zoser's minions come to the slave quarters to find Aida, one of the slave girls quickly claims to be her, thus saving Aida's life while sacrificing her own.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the opera it's based on.
  • "I Want" Song: "Fortune Favors the Brave"
  • Like Father, Like Son: In the song with this name, Zoser tries to convince Radames that this is the case, but Radames isn't buying it.
  • Love Triangle: Aida, Radames and Amneris. The show may make it even more blatant by having a laser triangle light up behind the three or positioning them to form a triangle while they sing "A Step Too Far" at the beginning of Act II.
  • Odd Friendship: Aida and Amneris. Though she technically owns Aida, Amneris treats her kindly, and the two are able to relate well to one another, due to the fact that, unknown to Amneris, they are both princesses. In one of her last lines in the show, Amneris strongly suggests that she considers Aida a loved one.
    Aida: (about speaking to Radames on Amneris behalf) Princess... Please don't make me.
    Amneris: (tenderly) I would never make you, I am asking you, as my friend.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Elton John wrote the songs for the show.
  • Reincarnation Romance: At the end, Radames and Aida are reunited in the modern-day museum, having been reincarnated.
  • Royal Blood: Aida, who is the princess of Nubia.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The whole premise of the reprise of "How I Know You", Mereb is disgusted that Aida is still in love with the man who will soon be King of the Nation that has destroyed their homeland.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Aida and Radames embrace passionately at the end of "Elaborate Lives". The scene fades to black. When it fades back in, they're lying in each other's arms, with him shirtless and her dress now wrapped around her in Modesty Bedsheet style.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Radames doesn't seem attracted to anyone before getting to know Aida, and Amneris is really frustrated about it.
  • Sinister Minister: Though his role as "Chief Minister" is sometimes strictly political, Zoser, the only person in the show that can really be called a villain, is Egypt's high priest in most versions.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Aida's father is killed in the opera, but escapes in the musical, with Mereb killed instead.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Zoser's ministers who are helping him plot to kill the Pharoah so Zoser's son, Radames, can rule alongside Amneris. Unbeknownst to Radames. They seem to be dancing perfectly in time, that must mean they are surely evil. See Radames and his soldiers' dancing (or lack of) in "Fortune Favors the Brave".
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Hint: the two characters who sing a song together about how every force in the universe is colluding to keep them apart.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Aida as of "Dance Of The Robe". She does, however, state later on in "Easy As Life" that her duty will not let "a coward run".
      I know expectations are wild
      And almost beyond my fulfillment
      But they won't hear a word of doubt
      Or see sign of a weakness.
    • Also, Amneris.
      Amneris: I feel better when beguiling
      Find that fashion keeps me smiling
      But in my heart I know it's rather sad...

      Aida: That a life of great potential
      Is dismissed, inconsequential

      Amneris: And only ever seen as being cute.
      So I'll flutter to deceive

      Aida:No, you must believe, that one day you're bound to find
      A stronger suit.
      • Kicks into high gear during "I Know The Truth", where she sings about her realization that her upcoming marriage is a sham — as she's dressing for her wedding.
  • Tenor Boy: Radames and Mereb. They both have pop tenor voices and fit different sides of the Tenor Boy character type. Mereb is by no means innocent and is completely fed up with everyone and everything around him after so many years as a slave, but he is painfully idealistic and naive when it comes to his mental image of his princess and their escape from Egypt. Radames is world-wise and older than Mereb, but he's the one who is hopelessly gaga over the lead female character.
  • Villain Song: "Another Pyramid", "Like Father Like Son"
  • Voiceover Letter: "Radames' Letter"