GLT went along to see the much-anticipated musical which opened at London’s Dominion Theatre at the start of February.
The 1998 DreamWorks Animation film, on which the stage show of The Prince of Eygpt, is based, was made to be a true recreation of the Biblical tale. The film was a massive hit, which eventually inspired the new London musical.
In the official programme for the show, composer Stephen Schwartz, who wrote ten new songs in addition to the five originals taken from the film, said: “We have learned, as we’ve been working on the show, that this film is beloved by many, many people, so we wanted to do it justice.”
It does just about do this, but the film was always going to be hard to beat - especially with its title song, When You Believe, recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
If you’re not familiar with the ancient story, Moses (Luke Brady) is brought up alongside his brother Ramses (Liam Tamne) in the royal household, but the pair are suddenly divided by a secret past. Moses must free his people from the control of his brother, who eventually rules as Pharaoh of Egypt. As more pressure is forced onto Ramses to free Moses’ people, chaos and torture grabs hold of the ancient land, culminating in the iconic parting of the Red Sea’s waves.
The company, 43 of them to be exact, feature heavily as natural elements in the show. Whether it be the sand dunes of the desert, the elegant stream which delivers Moses from safety when he is a baby or Moses and Rameses’ racing chariots, these dance routines are clever, making it easier for the audience to understand where the characters are on a fairly minimal set. Dance lovers in particular will appreciate the work that has gone in to bringing the various scenes to life.
You can’t fault the cast for effort either, in fact all members are fantastic singers. This includes Tzipporah (Christine Allado) who is introduced as a fiery individual, but shows her softer side as she falls for Moses. Allado’s character, who is first introduced on stage as a prisoner, is strong willed. Eventually she escapes, closely followed by a distressed Moses who realises he doesn’t belong in the royal household, which is where their relationship prospers.
A large screen takes over the back of the stage with what I can best describe as long pieces of cloth hanging from either side of the theatre. Throughout the performance there were various projected ancient images across each side of the stage and across the tassels which was effective in portraying certain parts of the story.
The costumes are brightly decorated with sparkling sequins to help bring the grandeur of an ancient Pharaoh to life and the slavery scenes help the audience imagine the brutality enforced at the time.
In the final scene of the show, we witness Moses parting the waves of the Red Sea, an iconic moment in the film too. But just how do you part the sea in a London theatre? The director’s answer was to attach two men to a harness at either side of the stage and raise them to the venue’s roof, dressed all in blue and attached to stips of cloth in the same colour which appeared to wave frantically. More of this cloth covered both sides of the stage to create a walkway for the characters and the iconic parting of the waves, of sorts. It sounds odd for sure and it just about worked although not everybody seemed to be blown away (I did hear some people chuckling in their seats).
The new production has already been seen by more than 41,000 people at 20 sold-out preview performances; and with a huge cast of 43, you can really appreciate the amount of work that has gone into it.
Although it may not have lived up to the hype promised for me personally, there were plenty of people in the audience rushing to the front to congratulate the orchestra on their performance. On the way out, a small gathering had also formed outside the stage door to meet the stars. Having now been extended for an extra seven weeks to stretch its run until 31st October, the Prince of Egypt must be ticking the boxes.
More information can be found at www.theprinceofegyptmusical.com.