The Prince Of Egypt
Dominion Theatre, London ★★✩✩✩
THE Red Sea will be parting almost every day until the end of October, thanks to advance bookings for this epic musical by Stephen Schwartz, composer and lyricist of the smash hit Wicked.
With a cast of 43 and based on a 1998 DreamWorks animated feature (and before that a book called The Bible), the show can surely stake a claim to be the most ambitious theatrical undertaking ever attempted.
Following the Old Testament story of Exodus, in which 2million Hebrews were led out of Egypt, the production brings us such miracles as the burning bush, the ten plagues and that chariot race between future Pharaoh Ramses (Liam Tamne) and the adopted younger brother who was found in the reeds of The Nile, Moses (Luke Brady).
Yet the miracle of a great musical never appears. And it is doubtful the almighty could save this show (which is directed by Scott Schwartz, Stephen’s son) from the unintended laughter evoked by Philip LaZebnik’s dialogue.
Granted, it worked fine with animated characters, but with real actors, it set the audience off in unholy giggles.
We can’t blame them. ‘I’ll always have your back,’ Moses tells his brother, then joshes: ‘But I don’t want to see your front!’
The focus here is on the brothers, whose relationship is made tricky when Moses realises he is the son of some of the Hebrew slaves being used to build pyramids with stones that are apparently as heavy as Lego (note to cast: make it look harder).
Moses’ liberation of the slaves, pursued by Ramses’ army, has potential to provide the most compelling of family dramas. But the tone here only ranges from kitsch to camp — embodied by Gary Wilmot’s chilled, hippyish Jethro, who might have wandered on from the current touring production of Hair.
Only once does the evening get close to genuine emotion, with the song For The Rest Of My Life, in which Brady’s Moses conveys his regret for the slaying of the first born.
But by the end of this show, he’d be better off praying for redemption.