The Prince of Egypt has become a much beloved classic, and this adaptation is years in the making. After finding critical acclaim onscreen and nabbing itself an Oscar at the original film’s release in 1998, the biblical tale finally lands on the West End. Composer Stephen Schwartz, of the Wicked fame, has introduced 10 new songs to this musical array, adding more fuel to this already beast of a fire (there is also literal fire at one point in the production). While an incredibly talented and diverse cast take the stage, they do the best with the tools they have been given.
The staging is visually spectacular, projections covering the walls of the Dominion transport the audience to a quasi-modern ancient Egypt. The stage itself is left open, with a moving block provided to lift Moses into the heavens; there is plenty space to dance and with choreographer Sean Cheesman’s ambitious routines they do just that. There is even ample opportunity to rid those pesky Egyptian’s into the hells below.
Physical theatre is heavily relied upon; dancers are waves, chariots, sand dunes and mighty marble columns. The insisted reliance on movement to create ambience, while beautifully choreographed, becomes part of why this adaptation feels so underwhelming. With such an awe-inspiring set you’d think they could afford more ambitious props than people. While a majestic use of dance, for such an ambitious musical I was left wanting more at an attempt to create environment.
Luke Brady’s kindly Moses finds himself a sweet and noble messenger for God while Liam Tamne’s Ramses is given a rather shocking, and in my opinion ill-advised, redemption arc. From screen to stage we see a whole array of characters fleshed out, comedic effect is applied throughout the cast and The Prince of Egypt attempts to find the funny in the Pharaoh. While Ramses is now a slightly pathetic but still disappointing first son, Pharaoh is no longer a larger than life, soon-to-be God, but a stern father disappointed in his lineage.
While the stand-out songs still stand out, ‘Through Heaven’s Eyes’ is received by extended and deserved applause (what they do well they do magnificently), the new numbers are lost in the noise. Brady finds himself in the second half: he is not to be underestimated as a strong soloist. Classic songs remain classics and new numbers scratch a deep, but uncovered surface. Nevertheless, the multiple medleys of old and new numbers are carried with strength by both the chorus and the main actors.
While newcomers will know no different, I fear fans of the film will be left wanting to return to the animation. While I wish to be able to appreciate the adaptation for what it is- a twist on a classic- much is lacking when compared to its superior form. In this adaption, biblical morals become a biblical bromance as Ramses and Moses seek to find religious resolution.
The Prince of Egypt is playing at The Dominion Theatre until the 12th September 2020. For more information and tickets, see The Prince of Egypt website.