THROWBACK THURSDAY: Lately, we’ve been sharing here on this blog some of the most incredible shows that had huge cult followings here on Broadway following it’s closing.
Another one of those shows was Aida – The Musical (an updated Pop/Rock version of the classic Verdi opera of the same name). AIDA was only the 3rd musical produced by Disney on Broadway and the first not based on a Disney movie.
AIDA featured an incredible score by Elton John. lyrics by Sir Tim Rice (Official), and a book by Linda woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang.
The cast includes Heather Headley (fresh from appearing as “Nala” in The Lion King – Musical at the time) in her breakout performance as the title role, Tony nominee Adam Pascal as “Radames”, and future Tony nominee Sherie Rene Scott as “Princess Amneris”. During it’s time on Broadway, replacements included Maya Days, Simone, Toni Braxton, Destiny’s Child favorite Michelle Williams, and Deborah Cox as the title role, Matt Bogart and Will Chase as “Radames”, and future Tony winner Idina Menzel, Felicia Finley, Mandy Gonzalez, and Lisa Brescia as “Princess Amneris”.
The story takes place in Ancient Egypt where an enslaved Nubian Princess and an Egyptian solider fall in a forbidden love situation being forced to part forever or die together.
AIDA was originally conceived as an animated film for Disney (following the success of The Lion King in 1994) but Elton John decided on having it as a stage musical. After many years of readings and workshops under the working title ELABORATE LIVES: THE LEGACY OF AIDA, the musical had it’s world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998 before having another Pre-Broadway engagement at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, Il that following year. The show officially arrived on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in 2000 where it played a total of 1,882 performances. The reviews were mixed but still went on to be nominated for 5 Tony Awards that year. Even though the show was snubbed for Best Musical, it went on to still win 4/5 of it’s nominations including Best Leading Actress in a Musical (for Heather Headley) and Best Original Score (for Elton John and Sir Tim Rice). It also went on to win a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album (renamed Best Musical Theatre album). A film version was originally in the works for 2007 with Beyonc? playing the title role and Christina Aguilera as “Amneris”. However, the film was canned.
Anyone remember seeing or hearing of AIDA?!
FUN FACT: During it’s pre-Broadway runs, AIDA was known for having some technical problems. For the original World Premiere in Atlanta, the staging was a lot different than from how the show was when it came to Broadway. The set was nearly an empty stage with only a six-ton gold pyramid-shaped piece in the center featuring hydraulic controls where the “Pyramid” could be turned and rotated to suggest various locations including a ship stern or a tomb. However the set piece (which cost $10 million) constantly kept breaking down.
During the show’s run in Chicago (prior to Broadway), both Heather Headley and Adam Pascal were injured on Opening Night during the show’s climax scene where (SPOILER ALERT) their characters die alive together in the tomb. They both were inside a conveyed boxlike “tomb” that was raised a few feet above the stage. The set piece broke from it’s support and plunged 8 feet to the stage. Both Headley and Pascal were sent to a local hospital and released a few hours later suffering from minor injuries. From that moment on, the “tomb” was kept on the ground.
This clip from Disney’s production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA features the original Broadway cast in “Dance of the Robe” – including Heather Headley (…
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