Aida is a musical drama in two acts based on Giuseppe Verdi's Italian-language opera by the same name, which is in turn based on a story by Auguste Mariette. The musical was produced by Hyperion Theatricals, a unit within Disney Theatrical, with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, and David Henry Hwang.
Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida had its world premier at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia with the production running from September 17 to November 8, 1998. A new, revised production opened on November 12, 1999 at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago. The Broadway production, named Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, ran at the Palace Theatre between March 23, 2000 and September 5, 2004 for a total of 1,852 performances (and 30 previews) making it the 18th longest show ever. The production also produced a successful national tour and several international productions. Disney has recently granted production rights for regional theater productions as well.
This musical was nominated for five Tony Awards and won four.
Original Broadway Cast
In the Broadway production, Heather Headley originally portrayed the title character of Aida along with co-star Adam Pascal as Radames. Sherie Rene Scott, who was with the project since its first workshop, continued in the role of Amneris.
The cast also included Tyrees Allen (Amonasro), John Hickok (Zoser), Daniel Oreskes (Pharaoh), Damian Perkins (Mereb), and Schele Williams (Nehebka).
One notable member of the original ensemble was Corinne McFadden who would go on to assist in the choreography of both Stephen Schwartz's Wicked and the 2005 revival of Cy Coleman's Sweet Charity. She has also performed in both of these productions.
Pascal returned the role he created for the show's final weeks.
Notable Broadway Cast Members
From the Atlanta staging, only Heather Headley, as Aida, and Sherie Rene Scott, as Amneris, remained. Adam Pascal joined the cast as Radames for the Chicago run. The Chicago run at the Cadillac Theatre also had its share of drama. On Nov. 13, 1999, a set mishap during the final moments of the performance felled stars Headley and Pascal. According to an eyewitness report, while the two actors were being conveyed in a suspended boxlike "tomb" at the climax of the show, the set piece broke from its support and plunged approximately eight feet to the stage. A subsequent press release from the show's publicist stated that Headley and Pascal sustained minor injuries and were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for examination. Both were released from the hospital a few hours later. From then on, the tomb remained on the ground.
The following is the list of musical numbers that appeared in the Broadway version of Aida.
Elton John's music for Aida is stylistically eclectic. "Another Pyramid" is a modern reggae number; "My Strongest Suit" draws heavily on Motown, "The Gods Love Nubia" draws on gospel. There are numbers, e.g., "Not Me," "Elaborate Lives," "A Step Too Far," "Written in the Stars," that reflect Elton John's pop style. There is also a strong influence of African (or, more precisely, exotic) music. These styles are used without much attention to historical authenticity, rather, there is a mix of African (mostly west African), Indian and Middle Eastern influences. Probably the nearest stylistic parallel to the work as a whole is Elton John's The Lion King, another musical with strong ethnic elements.
Two show recordings are available for Aida:
Aida was nominated for five Tony Awards at the 2000 ceremony. Surprisingly, the show was not nominated for Best Musical. It won in the categories of Best Original Musical Score (Elton John), Best Actress in a Musical (Heather Headley), Best Scenic Design (Bob Crowley), and Best Lighting Design (Natasha Katz). Bob Crowley was also nominated for Best Costume Design but lost to Martin Pakledinaz and his work on the 1999 revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate.
Elton John, Tim Rice, and the Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA: Original Broadway Cast Recording were honored at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards with the award for Best Musical Show Album.