About Time You Saw: The Prince of EgyptBy Gilly Hopper
A show of biblical proportions – with a budget to match – the stage adaptation of The Prince of Egypt assumed a certain level of hype and expectation ahead of its West End debut at The Dominion Theatre. The DreamWorks animation, first released in 1998, was heralded and much-loved by audiences; its’ Academy-Award Winning When You Believe (sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey) was deemed a tour de force. Successfully rallying the original team for the stage production – music and lyrics by GRAMMY® and Academy Award®-winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell) and a book by Philip LaZebnik (Mulan, Pocahontas) – all seemed so promising.
Sadly though, this resurrection plagues audiences with a mind-numbing show. Philip LaZebnik’s book is laborious, oppressive and stretched unnecessarily beyond its original form. Dialogue is stop start and actors – however credible – are left to labour through lifeless, proclamatory lines. A show about two brothers – one who must rule as Pharaoh, the other is destined to rise up and free his people – together they journey through the wonders of Ancient Egypt, flitting from laddish language to satanical sermon without warning. Despite the known capabilities of actors Liam Tamne and Luke Brady who play brothers Ramses and Moses respectively, they can do little to smooth out scenes that zig zag aimless from flatline to soaring high C. The show is pantomime – though probably a little dark for children and far too vacuous for adults to enjoy.
Sets are spectacles, but rather than awe-inspiring they merely make clear where money has been spent – hovering wine glass (should we really be toasting this kind of low-grade wizadry?), projections of pyramids and feeble bits of fringe skirting the stage which later serves as the Red Sea. Equally uninspired are Schwartz new songs – the one exception being Footprints in the Sand – which, no matter how hard you believe, feel forced and fatigue the listener. Sean Chessman’s choreography is oversubscribed and direction by Scott Schwartz (Stephen’s son) doesn’t warrant much praise either. In fact, the only praise that can be dished out is to the cast of 43 who play to a waning auditorium while (presumably) praying for deliverance (much like the audience).
The Prince of Egypt is now playing at The Dominion Theatre