This is Part 6 in a series of posts that examines Disney’s Aida in detail. Aida has a book by Linda Woolverton, David Henry Hwang and Robert Falls, lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Elton John.
Act 1 Scene 4
The scene which follows, which introduces Amneris in the bath house as she primps, preens and dresses for the banquet that follows, sits rather oddly. It’s almost as if it was written as a skit for a high school play and if this Aida was written by a high school student, it might be very impressive. But it isn’t.
Obviously, the thing that is meant to jump out at us is the contrast between the Amneris we saw at the start of the show, a dignified pharaoh, and the Amneris we see in this scene, a prom queen renegade from Heathers or Mean Girls. I get that. I also get that we are looking at Aida from a different angle. However, this scene just doesn’t seem to fit in with the play we’ve seen so far. It’s that puzzle piece in the section of sky where all the pieces are light blue, the one that almost looks like it fits when you slot it in, but which might not – and you can’t really tell why. Again I think the problem exists because of the choice to go the book musical route instead of developing the material into a rock opera. Dialogue gives you more room to think and the thought that returns frequently during this scene is how the wit that Linda Woolverton is desperately trying to contrives only comes off as being dreadfully tacky.
During the scene, Amneris is presented with Aida, who manages to talk her way into the favour of the princess by giving her news of Radames and by displaying an extensive knowledge on dyeing fabrics(!). There is some dramatic irony at play here, because we know that Aida uses her own perspective on how a princess would like to be treated to work out her responses to Amneris, although the idea is underdeveloped as it seems most of the book scenes in this musical will be, merely being links that carry the audience from one song to the next.
NEXT UP: My Strongest Suit
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