Schele Williams' Reimagined Take on Disney's Aida to World Premiere in the Netherlands | Playbill

International News Schele Williams' Reimagined Take on Disney's Aida to World Premiere in the Netherlands

The new production was previously set to embark on a U.S. tour, but will now begin abroad.

Schele Williams
Schele Williams Marc J. Franklin

Director Schele Williams' reimagined take on Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida has set a world premiere engagement in the Netherlands, with performances beginning April 23, 2023 at AFAS Circustheater in Scheveningen. It is produced by Disney Theatrical. Gaia Aikman, Naidjim Severina, and April Darby will lead the cast as Aida, Radames, and Amneris, respectively.

Williams' production was originally announced to play New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse before embarking on a U.S. tour and an engagement in Germany. But those plans were postponed due to the spread of COVID-19 and the accompanying shutdown of most live theatre. The new version will leave the score and the original plot intact. As for tone, Williams, who played Nehebka in the work's original Broadway production, has given the musical "a contemporary feel without compromising its original quality." 

She says that this update was a way for audiences to more easily connect the politics of Ancient Egypt to today. "One of the most fascinating things about the time in which Aida is set was that gender inequality was not an issue then," shares Williams. "Pharaohs could be female too, among both the Egyptians and the Nubians. Women were also commanders of armies, and soldiers, and the best doctors in Egypt. Women held property and took it with them when they got married. It made me realize that in our fight for equal rights, we women actually need to get back what we already had then. As a mother, I think it’s fantastic that I can tell my daughters and their friends about this, and that we must reclaim the position we always had."

Co-book writer David Henry Hwang has worked with Williams to update the script for the new iteration. Hwang worked with Linda Woolverton and Robert Falls on the original version. The upcoming Netherlands bow will include choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie, sets and costumes by Bob Crowley, lighting design by Natasha Katz, and sound design by Tony Gayle. Clement Ishmael is leading the music department as musical supervisor, with vocal and co-incidental music arrangements by Michael McElroy, orchestrations by Jim Abbott, and dance arrangements and co-incidental music arrangements courtesy of Zane Mark.

Aida opened at Broadway's Palace Theatre in 2000, earning Heather Headley a Tony Award for the title role, with John and Rice earning Tony and Grammy Awards for their work on the score. 

Based on Verdi's 1871 opera, Aida follows Egyptian soldier Radames, his lover Aida (a captured princess from abroad), and his fiancée Amneris (the Egyptian king’s daughter) as the three grapple with love, duty to country, and family. Starring alongside Headley in the original Broadway production were Sherie Rene Scott as Amneris and Adam Pascal as Radames.

Aida remained on Broadway through 2004, featuring a slew of hit recording artists taking center stage, including Toni Braxton, Deborah Cox, and Michelle Williams. After the musical closed on Broadway, the musical was resurrected on tour and in regional productions, including a 2016 run at Muny starring Williams, Taylor Louderman, and Zak Resnick.

Disney Theatrical Productions is partnering with Stage Entertainment Nederland to present the world premiere.

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