Ok, I've written and rewritten this post several times and it still didn't come out quite the way I wanted it to. (My sister says it's because I'm a perfectionist).
You see, I started out to write just a simple synopsis/summary of the musical. And it grew into a five page telling of the story. Well, that was just way too long. So, I chopped it down. But it still refused to be a summary, synopsis, or anything short.
So my exuberant enthusiasm for this musical is to blame for the rambling extended review. :D
CAUTION: This post is CHOCK-FULL of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk. :D
WARNING: Although my review will be in family friendly terms, this is a mature musical. I do not recommend it to anyone under 16.
NOTE: This is the musical Aida, by Elton John and Tim Rice. It differs somewhat from the opera of the same name by Verdi.
Ok, you're probably saying, "Can we just get down to business now?" :D
AIDA: ACT ONE (Song titles are in italics.)
The story begins in an exhibit about Ancient Egypt in a museum. Visitors flow around the display cases. A young man and woman are strangely drawn to each other and stand before the empty tomb in the middle of the exhibit. The statue of the female Pharaoh on the right (dressed in a magnificent red gown that I would love to have!!!) comes alive, informing us "Every story... All are tales of human failing, all are tales of love at heart. This is the story of love that flourished in 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."– Every Story is a Love Story.
The scene rolls back to Ancient Egypt and the returning Egyptian army, led by Captain Rhadames. They are flushed with the success of their expedition - having penetrated into previously unexplored lands, conquered part of Nubia, their neighbor to the south, and brought back more slaves - from Nubia. Captain Rhadames is especially elated, "We seize the day... we touch the stars.... Nothing is an accident, we are free to have it all, we are what we want to be, it is in ourselves to rise or fall." – Fortune Favors the Brave. As the newly captured slave women are being led off, one of them breaks free, snatches a sword from a drunken soldier and takes him hostage, the blade at his throat. (And I cheer! :D) Rhadames orders her to release him, but she defies him: "You took us from Nubia...and now you say we belong to you, yes?" Rhadames: "Yes." The slave (revealed to be Aida) replies: "Well, I took this soldier from your ranks. So, by your own logic he belongs to me." (One of my favorite scenes!) It does her no good, except to make Rhadames realize she is a feisty, unusual slave. As a special punishment for her defiance, he orders her to wash his back. Reluctantly, she complies, (rather roughly, heehee!). But, when he makes a disparaging comment about Nubians, she stops and refuses to continue: "You know nothing about me, and care even less. How could you understand our emptiness.... The future is a barren world, from which I can't return... Shining like an evil sun, as my childhood treasures burn!" – The Past is Another Land.
Rhadames father, Chief Minister Zoser as we are informed by Mereb, "Loved by the gods, the people and himself," arrives to greet his son, ordering the slaves taken to the copper mines. Rhadames, realizing the women would not survive very long in the mines, countermands the order, and has them sent to the palace groundskeeper instead, reserving Aida as a gift for the Pharaoh's only child, the Princess Amneris. He instructs Mereb, his Nubian servant, to take Aida to the Princess. Mereb is startled upon hearing Aida's name. Excitedly, Rhadames details the success of his expedition to his father, and that as soon as his crew is rested, he is leaving again. Zoser informs him he can't. Egypt needs him. The Pharaoh is dying, and Rhadames must marry Amneris and prepare to take the Pharaoh's throne. "Our most regal invalid is not that much longer for us... Put 5,000 saves on standby... Build another pyramid!" – Another Pyramid. Annoyed and worried about the pharaoh, Rhadames leaves, to pay his respects to Pharaoh. Zoser, grinning evilly, reveals in conversation with his goons that he is poisoning the Pharaoh slowly. (This guy is terrifically evil and conniving.)
While taking Aida to the Princess, Mereb tells her he is still Nubian at heart, though he seems to be at home in Egypt. Furthermore, he tells her Rhadames is not a bad master and even a decent man underneath, proven by the fact he noticed Aida is special. She retorts, "What that man sees and understands may be etched on a grain of sand." (I LOVE her retorts!!) And then we discover why he was startled at hearing her name earlier. "I grew up in your hometown, which surely explains, how I know you. My father was... advisor to the King (of Nubia)... for as you're his daughter...." – How I Know You. Stunned, Aida refuses to allow Mereb to tell the other Nubian slaves she is the princess, fearing reprisals from the Egyptians. Just take her to the Princess Amneris and allow her to begin her new life as a slave. Mereb tells her, "Just so you know, Amneris is more than that (just a Princess) to Rhadames. She is his betrothed." Aida seems a bit surprised and asks when the wedding is to be. Mereb laughs, "The day his ship sinks and the royal builders refuse to make him another!" (Mereb is just fantastic! He has the best smart mouth retorts in the musical.)
Taken to Amneris, "First in beauty, wisdom and accesories," as Mereb tells us, Aida quickly endears herself to the Princess, finding her a fashion obsessed, vain woman – My Strongest Suit. (CONTENT WARNING: This song has low/short costumes, and some odd dancing.) That evening, Rhadames attempts to find out more about Aida, who has intrigued him, from Mereb, who is very close-mouthed. At the banquet celebrating his return, Rhadames is crushed to learn that he is to be married to Amneris in seven days and will never leave Egypt again. (CONTENT WARNING: there are some dancing girls in skimpy costumes who dance at the banquet.) While serving at the banquet, Aida is shocked and angered to discover from some of her fellow slaves that Mereb has indeed told them she is the Nubian princess. Alone in the banquet hall, Rhadames, deeply upset his exploring days are over, bursts out, repeating bitterly his words from earlier, "Nothing is an accident, We are free to have it all, we are what we want to be, it's in ourselves to rise or fall. This is easy to believe, when distant places call to me, it's harder from the palace yard." – Fortune Favors the Brave (Reprise). Surprisingly, he wins a response from Aida, who is still in the hall. "If I could leave this place then I'd go sailing... There'd be no ties of time and space to bind me... But why should I tell you this? A stranger I've just met. A woman who I hardly know at all and should forget!" – Enchantment Passing Through.
Back in Amneris' chamber, as Aida brushes her hair, Amneris worries about her father, finding in Aida a kindred spirit, one who understands the real Amneris, underneath her fashion-obsessed mask – My Strongest Suit (Reprise). Rhadames, angry and bewildered at the way Aida left him in the hall, bursts into Amneris' room to confront Aida. (CONTENT WARNING: this is one of the scenes I recommend skipping because of the suggestive language and the Amneris/Rhadames interaction.)
Mereb tries to persuade Aida to visit the Nubian camp. Aida strenuously refuses, declaring it is because of her own folly that she and the other women with her were captured. Over Aida's objections, Mereb takes her to the camp, where the slaves hail her as their leader and savior – Dance of the Robe.
Rhadames reveales he is increasingly attracted to Aida, and he believes her to be attracted to him as well. When he asks her how he can make her life easier, she tells him, "Help my people... I am my people." She cannot tell him if she feels anything for him. He goes so far as to kiss her, trying to win a response from her. They are interrupted by Mereb, sent to fetch Aida by
Amneris: (I love how he is very 'older brother' in this scene) "Aida, Amneris requests your presence. The Princess. (And then sternly to Rhadames) Your betrothed." :D To Aida's shock, Rhadames really does help the Nubians, giving them all his possessions. Not only does it surprise Aida, it surprises Mereb and even Rhadames himself. "Who'd have guessed I'd throw my world away, to be with someone I'm afraid will say, not me, not me." – Not Me When Aida thanks him for what he has done, he confesses he is in love with her. Aida cannot believe what he is saying- he is engaged to the princess, her mistress!!! Rhadames shrugs, "It was arranged by my father, it will be un-arranged by me." He makes an impassioned plea of love to Aida, rousing her to admit she does feel something for him –Elaborate Lives. (CONTENT WARNING: In some versions of this scene, she removes his jacket.)
Mereb interrupts them (again :D) to tell them the Egyptian armies have catured the Nubian King. Aida is grief-stricken at the news and they part, Rhadames going to deal with the King's capture, and Aida returning to her duties, torn between love for Rhadames and love for her father and her people, as well as her duty to her people and her mistress.
The slaves are cast into despair by the capture of their king, but Aida puts spirit back into them, "Nubia will never die! Nubia lives in our hearts.... The gods love Nubia, we have to keep believing. That scattered and divided, we are still it's heart." – The Gods Love Nubia.
She has become the leader her people so desperately need.
And all this rambling still has not managed to convey the sheer awesomeness of this musical. :D
Part Two coming tomorrow!!!
Miss Melody Muffin