Aida for Alhambra

September 26, 2014 | By More

Rare musical version in the Limelight

The great tale of the enslaved Nubian Princess Aida, who falls in love with her captor, Radames, is given a rare telling in its musical theatre version at the Dunfermline Alhambra next week.

Mia Oudeh, Nick Tomlinson and Fiona Dawson star in Limelight's production of Aida the Musical

Mia Oudeh, Nick Tomlinson and Fiona Dawson star in Limelight’s production of Aida the Musical

The story of Aida is most commonly associated with Verdi’s grand opera, complete with its triumphal march. This version was written in the late 1990s by the then already successful partnership of Elton John and Tim Rice on the back of their own triumph with The Lion King.

Conceived by Disney as the next big animated classic after Lion King, it had its Broadway opening in 2000, where it picked up a big handful of creative and performance awards and ran for 1852 performances. However it has not – as yet – had a film version and nor has it had a professional outing in the UK.

Like the Lion King, Aida wraps a more complex narrative around a simple story of love. While both dwell on the survival of the human spirit and love conquering all, the earlier musical had its basis in a child coming of age where Aida has a darker idea at its heart as love conquers even death.

This Aida has exactly the same plot as Verdi’s version. Egyptian general Radames, fresh back from defeating the Nubians, is betrothed to the king’s daughter, Amneris, and is set to become king himself on the (imminent) death of his father-in-law.

However, he falls for Aida, the Nubian slave who is Amneris’ handmaiden – little realising that she is the King of Nubia’s daughter and her position in his household will allow her to help her father’s planned break for freedom.

splendour and grandeur

At the helm of the Limelight production is Malcolm J Burnett, well known in Edinburgh’s amateur musical theatre circles as a director and performer.

The flavour of Aida‘s success lies in its setting in ancient Egypt, a time that Burnett says continues to mesmerise us with its splendour and grandeur. But it was also a time when family loyalty, duty, honour and sacrifice really meant something.

Burnett told Æ: “I remember being taken to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Edinburgh Art Centre at the age of ten and being completely enthralled by all the magnificent artefacts on display. I remember thinking how amazing it would have been to live as an Egyptian royal. Not once did I consider the poor Nubian slaves who were brutally treated at the hand of the Egyptians, until the day I was asked to direct Aida.”

He began his research in the Egyptian wing of the museum, finding out about both the extravagant life of royalty of that time and the ordinary Egyptian on the Nile and the slaves who did their work. Life for those enslaved was horrific by comparison with royalty and Burnett was keen to ensure that this came through in the Dunfermline production.

“The Egyptians believe that your spirit lives on and is reincarnated in to another body upon death,” he continued. “When I first read this I dismissed it as romantic nonsense, but the more I researched the show the more I realised how important that belief was.

“Radames promises Aida when being buried alive in the same tomb as an act of mercy by Amneris that he will search through a hundred lifetimes to find her again. It is this true belief that allows them to die at peace.”

Elton John and Tim Rice brought the full range of modern musical genres to the table in their telling of this story, from Reggae to Gospel and African to Motown – with a couple of big pop ballads thrown in for good measure – so there is plenty going on musically.

With a cast of going on 70, Limelight’s Aida will star Mia Oudeh in the title role and Fiona Dawson as Amneris, while the love interest comes from Nick Tomlinson as Radames.

Aida the Musical
Alhambra Theatre, 33 Canmore Street, Dunfermline KY12 7NX
Tuesday 30 September – Saturday 4 October 2014.
Daily 7.30pm.
Ticket details from: www.alhambradunfermline.com.
Limelight website: limelightp.moonfruit.com

Click on the image below to purchase the Broadway cast album on Amazon

Or listen to it on Youtube:

ENDS

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