Aida, the 2000 musical with music by Elton John and Tim Rice, has been one of my favorite musicals since I first saw it produced at my youth theater in the summer of 2005.
Aida is based on the classic Verdi opera of the same name. It tells the story of Aida, a Nubian princess, who is taken to Egypt to become the handmaiden to Princess Amneris. A love triangle forms as Aida falls for Amneris’ betrothed, Radames, an Egyptian army captain.
Peninsula Youth Theater, the company I grew up doing shows with, produced Aida in 2005. I vividly remember how enthralled I immediately was by the performances, the story, and the production. In fairness, the actors I saw as Aida and Radames have since both made their Broadway debuts, but their gorgeous voices on Elton John’s score were not the only reasons I loved the show.
The story, which bears a decent resemblance to Romeo and Juliet, is familiar and timeless, but the characters have a beautiful depth that Shakespeare’s characters do not. The audience feels Aida and Radames’ conflict between the duty they feel to their countries and their love for one another. Amneris, even though she serves as an obstacle to the central characters’ love story, is given depth. The audience can empathize with her as she realizes that Radames doesn’t love her, and that he, in fact, loves someone else.
I have always been a big fan of Elton John’s music, but this score contains some of my favorite pieces he’s written. The score balances fun and catchy numbers like “My Strongest Suit” and slow love ballads like “Written in the Stars.” Like any good musical theater score, it will make you laugh and cry. If you’ve never heard this score, do yourself a favor and go listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music or whatever platform you use to listen to music.
This show has also always represented the power that theater has to heal. The week that I saw Aida at Peninsula Youth Theater twice was also the week that my grandmother, my father’s mother, died. Sitting in the theater and being transported to Ancient Egypt allowed me to escape into a different world and forget how sad I was feeling.
Aida doesn’t get produced nearly often enough for how good it is. Thomas Schumacher, President of Disney Theatrical Group, has said that they’re working on a revival. If this revival comes to fruition, New York audiences are in for a treat.