Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aida Review


By Hedge T Hog

There is a saying that “Loving someone, is giving that someone the power to hurt you.” Meher Baba said, “Love cannot be forced on anyone, it can only be awakened through love itself.” Referring to love triangles Carol Burnett once said, “The only good love triangle is when you’re schizophrenic.” Truly when it comes to power, and especially the power of love, we often have only minimal control over whom we love, and even less on their capacity or willingness to reciprocate.

This power of love to hurt, to not be controlled, and to exist in triangles is especially evident in the award-winning musical “Aida,” written by Tim Rice and Elton John, currently being performed at the SCERA in Orem (You gotta love Broadway quality theater that allows you to eat Juju’s, and popcorn).

The setting for this triangle and history lesson is the land of Egypt (otherwise known as ‘the country inspired by the Luxor’). It opens at a BYU art exhibit (don’t worry, the inappropriate statues are covered) where many artifacts are on display (I even saw the 1st edition of Hooked on Hieroglyphics). We begin this E True Hollywood story about the Narrator from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” by seeing her true identity; the Princess Amneris. She explains that “every story is a love story” (especially that old romance “The Shining”) and thrusts the audience back to the land of Egypt.

Enter the Ancient Egyptian Boy Band known as “The Soldiers.” These guys are the precursor to the Back-Nile Boys, Nile Sync, and that dance phenomena, “NileDance, (If you look closely you can even spot Aladdin). They explain that, “fortune favors the brave,” and introduce their brave captain, Radames (apparently named when his father swore at his birth). Radames takes charge of some captured slave girls and makes the ultimate indecent proposal to one; a sponge-bath. The slave girl, Aida (last name Turner) asks “what’s love got to do with it,” and gives the shirtless captain the cold shoulder.

Meanwhile back on the bridge Captain Kirk, also known as “Zoser” consults with his staff, and walks about with his magic “all seeing eye” wand (If planted at the right time of day, his staff will point Indiana Jones to the Ark of the Covenant). Zoser wants his son to be Pharaoh. He has seen “Arsenic and Old Lace” too many names and uses the poison to keep the current Pharaoh weak, and is the plot’s token “bad guy.” (So corrupt, deceitful, and murderous he’s destined for public office). Among the slaves a different drama enfolds. One slave, Mereb (who formerly hosted Reading Rainbow), recognizes the slave / princess Aida (Don’t worry folks; he doesn’t know her in the biblical sense).

The story then re-introduces the singing history exhibit Amneris in the sauna. She is first in beauty, first in wisdom, first in accessories, and certainly first in humility (Her real last name is Trump). She has the Pointer Sisters singing back-up and shows uses for old Rainbow Brite costumes on her followers as she prepares for her father’s banquet. During the banquet it is revealed that Radames and Amneris have been engaged for nine whole years (Yup, they’re definitely NOT Utahns). However his highness Arch-Angel Pharaoh (carrying his official Chicago Bulls Staff), pushes the wedding deadline to 7 days (now THAT is more Utahn).

However, “happily ever after” is not to be in the land of Egypt, and a love triangle begins when Radames encounters Aida post-banquet, and their own mutual attraction blossoms (meanwhile Radames shows off more cleavage than Dolly Parton). They wonder “how can I say these things to you,” not realizing it was probably the wine (just avoid the glass with Arsenic). Radames tries to counterbalance his feelings for Aida by rushing to Amneris’s bedchamber (yup, NOT Utahn) and instead has a pointed conversation with Aida after which he is chastised for needing a “map” of the female anatomy (maybe a little Utahn after all).

The story then shifts to the Nubian camp where the slave princess is welcomed to her people (all those white Nubians must be related to Michael Jackson). They laud her, dance and sing with her, and present her with a robe made in homemaking class. After the “Mysterious Dance of the Washer Women,” there is an “oops” moment as Mereb catches Aida and Radames having a “lip-to-lip” conversation (Don’t you just hate it when your slave interrupts you cheating on your princess fiancée with your Nubian slave girl?) Captain Radames must, as it seems, choose between the two women he loves (Too bad he’s not “Southern Utahn,” and he’d have a solution).
We then have a small seen from “Roots,” when Aida meets with her father. Meanwhile another “fatherly” meeting takes place between Radames and Zoser. Zoser reminds his son that “like father, like son,” a fact I’m sure the Presidents Bush would agree with. The soldier boy-band dances around with sticks sporting red moons (where are the blue diamonds or purple horseshoes?), and Radames responds by sending Aida a letter (Not a “Dear Jane” one). They meet, sing a different “Almost Paradise,” and are happy. However, each knows their place, and their love is not to be. Aida must make plans for her father to escape and must return to her own country, and Radames must marry Amneris (she’s rich, powerful, and hot…poor guy indeed).
As the wedding proceeds, however, the slave king’s escape is discovered, Radames is confronted by his father, everyone’s secrets are revealed, and things become more dramatic than an episode of E.R. Aida and Radames are arrested as traitors and the Princess Amneris (revealed as the Flying Nun) must defend them. In the end it is decreed that Radames and Aida will die as traitors, but they will be allowed to die together (I would have asked for the consolation prize). As we return to the BYU art exhibit however, we see the lovers in modern times “re-discovering” each other (“I’ve seen that smile…somewhere before).

The true story of Aida is one of love. The power that love can have, and the power it holds over those smitten with it. It also illustrates what powers love does not possess. The love Amneris has for Aida and Radames isn’t enough to save them. Their love for each other isn’t enough to create a life together. Zoser’s love of power isn’t enough to grant him his desire, and the Pharaoh’s love of wine can’t counter-act that arsenic. Still, however, love is powerful enough to shape their destinies. It is also the powerful force felt and wielded by kings, pharaohs, and captains, as well as slaves and peasants. It is the common denominator (like death and taxes) that makes humans what they are. Though we may not be able to control who it comes to or from, we can control our capacity to embrace it, to show it, and to share it. It is, ironically, the force that makes slaves and masters of us all. And I, for one, will bow down before it…as long as there are Jujus involved.

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