But, first... my favorite version. I mentioned before that the only version I've seen all the way through was done by a Youth Musical Theatre Association (hereafter abbreviated as YMTA). I have seen partial bootlegs of two of the Broadway casts. And, I've seen bootleg clips of some of the foreign language versions from around the world. Overall, my favorite version so far, remains the YMTA. They aren't Broadway quality, but they are still quite good. (And a tiny bit of the objectionable content is missing. More points for it.)
This is the link to go to the playlist of the YMTA performance. I recommend it, but as I said before, be warned, there are several objectionable moments (I think I covered all of them in my review posts).
My personal favorite performers in each role: (based on the versions I've seen so far)
Aida: the YMTA Aida - Genevieve Penn. I really like her version of Aida- yes, better than both Broadway Aidas I've seen. I think she brings an innocence and a youth to the role that I think Aida would have had, and that neither of the Broadway actresses nailed.
And for me, the Korean Aida - Ok Joo-Hyun- ties for first place with Genevieve. (You'll see some of her performance later this week.)
Rhadames: the YMTA Rhadames - Blake Ewing. His voice is kind of nasal at times, and at first I didn't like him very well, but he really grew on me. I still don't think much of his voice, but his acting!!!! And the chemistry he has with the actress playing Aida is excellent.
EDIT/UPDATE: I take back everything I've said about not liking Blake Ewing's voice or performance. He definitely now ranks as my favorite Rhadames. (Well, if Ramin were to act the role, he'd probably be my top favorite, but that's beside the point.)
Although Ramin Karimloo didn't actually play the part of Rhadames, he did sing two of Rhadames' songs on one of his albums, and he beats everyone else all hollow. So, my favorite voice for Rhadames is Ramin (and yes, he is in my dream cast for Aida- more on that in a later post).
Amneris: the YMTA Amneris (Rachael Schunk) was good, but my favorite Amneris is Idina Menzel. She was in one of the Broadway casts. (There is actually a bootleg of the entire Aida production with Idina in it on YouTube, but the quality is horrible.)
Mereb: again, the YMTA's Daniel Cathers wins for me. His acting is very good, and his facial expressions hilarious!
Nehebkha: the only one I've seen is the YMTA's, so I can't really pick a favorite. She is pretty good, though.
Pharaoh: the YMTA is the only one I've seen. He is good, and yet, he always makes me want to laugh, because in most of his scenes, Pharaoh just sits there, making high sounding speeches or looking like a statue.
Zoser: I think I saw one of the Broadway Zosers but I can't remember his name. The YMTA Zoser is played by Stephen Cathers and he does a very good, evil job. His chemistry with Rhadames is great, and hilarious to see, especially in Like Father, Like Son (again, I don't recommend all of this song).
Amonasro: um, again, the YMTA is the only Amonasro I've seen.
Ok, now, my favorite songs, complete with videos:
The Past is Another Land:
This song is so poignant and beautiful. 'You know nothing about me, and care even less, how can you understand our emptiness?... the past is now another world.... the present is an empty space, between the good and bad.... the future is a barren world, from which I can't return... Shining like an evil sun, as my childhood treasures burn. (That is my favorite line- it is so expressive and picturesque.)
This is the YMTA's version:
How I Know You:
I absolutely LOVE Mereb in this song. Trying to convince Aida to let him tell the other slaves who she is, and her so resolutely saying, "No!"
Enchantment Passing Through:
I love, love, LOVE this song!!!!!! "To sail away to half discovered places. To see the secrets so few eyes have seen.... If I could leave this place then I'd go sailing, to corners of my land where there would be, sweet southern winds of liberty prevailing, the beauty so majestic and so free... There'd be no ties of time and space to bind me.... But why did I tell her this? A stranger I've just met, A woman who I hardly know at all and should forget.... (I especially love their chemistry in this song!) (This is a 'dream song role' of mine. I want to act this someday. Just the song, not necessarily the whole role. Especially when she leaves him at the end.)
This song is superb because it shows how far the characters have already come and how each is changing. Mereb is fantastic here.
And a very bad quality bootleg of Idina Menzel in Not Me. Quite foggy as to sound, but you can get an idea of how good she is:
The melody to this song isn't my favorite, but the lyrics are wonderful, "We all lead such elaborate lives, wild ambitions in our sights.... I'm so tired of all were going through, I don't want to live like that.... I just want to be with you, now and forever, peaceful, true...."
A Step Too Far:
I can't find a version of this with Idina Menzel, so here is the YMTA:
A live verison with the Original Broadway Cast: I don't mind this one too much. (Normally, the OBC just kind of annoys me.) Somehow I like it better live, than the cast recording.
Done by the incomparable Ramin Karimloo!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adQjVp3PnQ4 (I can't get the video to embed. ): Sorry!)
And here is a live version in which Ramin mentions how much he likes Aida. Also, some other amusing things, and you get more Ramin wonderfulness, like Music of the Night and Do You Hear the People Sing? (In French, no less!) :D
How I Know You Reprise:
This is so sad, because Mereb is beginning to lose faith in his beloved princess, thinking maybe she doesn't care enough for Nubia after all.
Written in the Stars: My ABSOLUTE TOP FAVORITE SONG FROM THE MUSICAL!!!!!!
It is tragic, stunningly gorgeous, and heartbreaking. "Is it written in the stars? Are we paying for some crime? Is that all that we are good for, just a stretch of mortal time? For some god's experiment, in which we have no say, in which we're given paradise, but only for a day."
This is my favorite version - again with the SUPERB voice of Ramin.
My second favorite version of Written in the Stars is a Korean version, but I'm saving that for another post. Here is the YMTA's version: (not nearly as good as Ramin, but not bad.)
I Know the Truth:
My favorite of Amneris' songs, sung by none other than the one and only Idina Menzel. (It was really hard to find a video of Idina singing this with even halfway decent sound.)
Elaborate Lives Reprise:
So sad, but mainly because it is sung as they wait for death.
Every Story is a Love Story Reprise:
My second favorite Amneris moment. It is wonderful to know that something good came out of all the tragedy and heartbreak - it guided the next Pharaoh to be a better ruler.
Miss Melody Muffin