We hadn’t planned on seeing The Prince of Egypt at all. The pointer was barely above zero on the interest scale. But then an opportunity arose (way too complicated to explain) to see a preview and in the wake of this week’s floods and with a deadly plague lurking in the wings, all things biblical seemed strangely apposite.
Based on the 1998 Dreamworks animation which is based on the book of Exodus (cue mass exodus gags if it’s crap) and featuring the Academy Award-winning number “When You Believe” (Whitney and Mariah apparently – no, us neither), somehow it had passed us by without even touching the sides.
It’s about Moses (we supposes) so here are our 10 commandments to guide you through life and the show:
1 You shall see no other shows that have music and lyrics by habitual bible-scorer Stephen Schwartz (this is directed by his son Scott). You walked out of a fairly recent concert version of Godspell at Cadogan Hall during the interval and Wicked left you cold. Still there’s no denying that he can write a catchy tune on occasion, especially when he Fiddler on the Roof‘s it up a bit as he does here. A lot.
2 You shall not make idle chit chat during the show. Or eat. Or turn on your phone. This seems to be the sort of a show that encourages that kind of an audience. Enjoy your raspberry ripple as you watch the mass murder of the Hebrew boys everybody.
3 You shall not take the name of the Lord Webber in vain again. Revisiting Love Never Dies would be preferable to sitting through this again.
4 Remember the line “Give our son to the embalmer. We need to go to the throne room.” For truly this was Phil’s favourite line in the whole show. And there were a few corkers in Philip LaZebnik’s book. Wonderful stuff.
5 Honour Gary Wilmot who appears here as Jethro and gets his big number teaching Moses (Luke Brady) how to dance. Imagine a Hebrew King and I. And honour too the wonderful Debbie Kurup as Queen Tuya. Both these talents are slightly wasted among the enormous cast of quite a lot of people.
6 You shall not murder. Even though sitting through this is. Portentous, dull and largely humourless. The only times we giggled were things that weren’t meant to be funny at all (cf. the 4th commandment).
7 You shall not commit adults to buying tickets. Not at these prices. Though for your buck you do get a lot of costumes (Ann Hould-Ward), some with an agreeable hint of Las Vegas Luxor Hotel chic and thrillingly some of the cast sport what appear to be golden waste paper baskets on their heads. You’ll also witness a heavenly rain of fire (rather good) plus the parting of the Red Sea, even though this is projected. What’s the point of turning a film into a stage show and having much of the design projected? Just askin’. The closing of the Red Sea is really quite the thing and looks impressively dangerous. To say more would spoil the effect. On top of this Kevin Depinet‘s designs feature an enormous amount of supposedly heavy building blocks that get humped around by the cast with great ease and more fringing than a line dancing convention. Huge fringed curtains swoosh about all over the place. Phil was reminded to invest in a fly curtain for the summer.
8 You shall not steal the show. That is unless you are the stage hand who ran on stage to pull one of the cast back from a dangerous position too close to the flames which would shoot through the floor for the Act 1 finale. Phil’s favourite bit in the show. By far. We can’t promise this will happen at every performance.
9 Thou shall not bear to get the maddeningly infectious Oscar-winning ditty out of your head. It pops up in various snatches throughout the show so even if, like Phil, you didn’t know the song beforehand you’ll sure as hell be humming it by the end. And possibly the rest of the week.
10 Thou shall notice the warning
Please note that flashing lights (photosensitivity), haze, smoke, low fog effects, Pyrotechnics, lasers, live flame and portrayal of violence are featured on stage, loud sound effects can be heard throughout the auditorium and performers move through the auditorium stalls.
Phew. No mention that some of these loud sound effects are supplied by the very shouty Pharaoh Seti (Joe Dixon). Still, at least we could hear him very clearly which is more than we could when the ensemble sang.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Tags: Ann Hould-Ward, Debbie Kurup, Dominion Theatre, Gary Wilmot, Joe Dixon, Kevin Depinet, Liam Tamne, London, Luke Bradt, Luke Brady, musical, Philip LaZebnik, review, Scott Schwartz, Stephen Schwartz, The Prince of Egypt, theatre