The Prince of Egypt isn’t the first time Stephen Schwartz has taken biblical passages and put them into a musical – the Off-Broadway premiere of Godspell took place in 1971. Twenty years later came Children of Eden, about the events in the Book of Genesis. This one takes in sections of the Book of Exodus. The narrative in this musical begins with Moses (Luke Brady, who does his best with what he’s given), put into a basket as an infant in the River Nile by Yocheved (Mercedesz Csampai). This was done to save him after Seti, the Pharaoh of Egypt (Joe Dixon) decrees that a) Hebrews be put into slavery and b) all new-born males are to be thrown into the Nile. It ends with the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea and the Egyptians, well, not.
A sizeable ensemble is certainly put through their paces here, though there were moments when the stage seemed to be exceedingly busy for busyness’ sake. At one point in the second half, some eight actors are stood, facing away from the audience, forming a wall whilst holding large ‘bricks’ above their heads, which proved rather distracting as Ramses (Liam Tamne) and Moses were singing ‘Always On Your Side’. Early on in the show, human pyramids (geddit?) are formed, resulting in an impressive sight but I was left hoping the production has a good chiropractor they can call on as needed.
It is quite impossible, at the risk of stating the obvious, to keep God out of a story of this nature. At a macro level, however, similar themes occur to those in many musicals (and indeed plays) – amongst other things, triumphing over adversity, coming of age, and the perennial struggle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Much is made of the relations over the years between Moses and Ramses, with considerable attempts to portray both a sibling rivalry and a healthy level of respect, humanising characters that are sometimes perceived to be heartlessly against each other.
The choreography (Sean Cheesman) can be highly energetic when it wants to be, and the production is stronger when it comes to dancing than it is with singing. Stage presence was best expressed in Jethro (Gary Wilmot) and the high priest Hotep (Adam Pearce), the former in his jollity and the latter in his sombre nature. With no expense seemingly spared, the set is impressive, to be fair – over the top, in fact, which worked well when Bat Out of Hell The Musical played at the Dominion. In this production, at the same venue, the staging is, frankly, too big for the numerous displays of family ties that play such a big part of proceedings.
At least fifteen minutes could be shaved off the running time, and part of me wonders whether this would be better presented as a dance extravaganza rather than billed as a musical. And why does it have fire at the close of the first half but not during the burning bush number? Anyway, there is probably enough of a fanbase of the motion picture to keep the show going for some time. It just about held my attention throughout, but the songs are, ‘When You Believe’ excepted, largely unmemorable. That said, there are some pleasant harmonies to enjoy, and there’s something quite topical about plagues and pestilences affecting the general population given things like coronavirus and climate change – as there is about people in high positions of government being woefully out of touch.
Review by Chris Omaweng
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT has music and lyrics by GRAMMY® and Academy Award®-winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell), a book by Philip LaZebnik (Mulan, Pocahontas) and features 10 brand new songs written by Stephen Schwartz, together with 5 of his acclaimed songs from the DreamWorks Animation film (Deliver Us, All I Ever Wanted, Through Heaven’s Eyes, The Plagues and the Academy Award®-winning When You Believe, which was a global hit for Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as well as a UK and Ireland chart-topping winner’s single for The X-Factor).
The huge cast of 43 features Luke Brady (Moses), Liam Tamne (Ramses), Christine Allado (Tzipporah), Alexia Khadime (Miriam), Joe Dixon (Seti), Debbie Kurup (Queen Tuya), Gary Wilmot (Jethro), Mercedesz Csampai (Yocheved), Adam Pearce (Hotep), Tanisha Spring (Nefertari), Silas Wyatt-Barke (Aaron), Simbi Akande, Casey Al-Shaqsy, Joe Atkinson, Danny Becker, Felipe Bejarano, Pàje Campbell, Adam Filipe, Soophia Foroughi, Natalie Green, Jack Harrison-Cooper, Rachael Ireson, Kalene Jeans, Christian Alexander Knight, Jessica Lee, Oliver Lidert, Jay Marsh, Scott Maurice, Carly Miles, Sam Oladeinde, Alice Readie, Christopher Short, Molly Smith, Ricardo Walker, Danny Williams, Niko Wirachman and Sasha Woodward together with young performers Leo Babet, Jonah Collier, Taylor Jenkins, Mia Lakha, Iman Pabani and Hannah Selk.
Journey through the wonders of Ancient Egypt as two young men, raised together as brothers in a kingdom of privilege, find themselves suddenly divided by a secret past. One must rule as Pharaoh, the other must rise up and free his true people; both face a destiny that will change history forever.
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is directed by Scott Schwartz with choreography by Sean Cheesman; set designs by Kevin Depinet; costume designs by Ann Hould-Ward; lighting design by Mike Billings; sound design by Gareth Owen; projection designs by Jon Driscoll; illusions by Chris Fisher; wigs, hair and makeup design by Campbell Young Associates; orchestrations by August Eriksmoen; musical supervision and arrangements by Dominick Amendum; musical direction by Dave Rose, casting by Jim Arnold CDG and children’s casting by Verity Naughton CDG.
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is produced by DreamWorks Theatricals (a division of Universal Theatrical Group), Michael McCabe and Neil Laidlaw together with John Gore, Tom Smedes and Peter Stern, Ramin Sabi, The Araca Group, James L. Nederlander and Michael Park.
Developmental productions of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT were presented at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (winner of the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award®) and Fredericia Teater Denmark.
The Prince Of Egypt
Dominion Theatre, London