Aida is one of those musicals that it seems has a strong fan following, but one which also attracts a great deal of criticism in regard to both its book and score. I’ve looked at the show on this blog before – or at least I started doing so some time ago and perhaps I should finish that series of in depth scene-by-scene analyses about the show – and think that I generally agree with the criticisms leveled at the book of the show. Looking at some of the scenes, I wonder how it can be that three people are credited to its creation! Granted one of them is hack extrodinaire Linda Woolverton, with the other two (director Robert Falls and playwright David Henry Hwang ) only responsible for fix-ups and tweaking, but still…. The treatment of the narrative would be much better suited to the conventions of rock opera than a conventional book in the musical play style and seeing that the show basically sets itself up as such in its medley of opening numbers, it’s a pity that it doesn’t follow through on the proposal. It would certainly go a long way towards justifying the choice to use such a diverse range of popular music styles in the score.
Another observation I often see around the Internet is that the only good song in the score is “”Another Pyramid”. Now, let me weigh in on this opinion quite strongly. I’m not certain that criteria exist by which “Another Pyramid” could be considered a good song. Sure, it was given a seductively energetic staging in the original production, but the song itself reduces Zoser to little more than a cartoon villain. I’ve explored this in more detail elsewhere on this blog – but, in short, it’s based around an unfocused and undisciplined lyric by Tim Rice, featuring half-baked allusions to Egyptian mythology (like the token reference to Horus), trite expressions (like “each dog must have its day”) and typically self-conscious Rice-isms (“Summon Egypt’s greatest builder re: another pyramid”). Furthermore, Elton John’s choice of musical style seems arbitrary, though this isn’t the undoing of the song even if it raises yet another question regarding anachronism as a key feature of the score given that the show is not set up as a rock opera, but as a musical play. As such, I remain unconvinced that the song’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses.