THE PRINCE OF EGYPT
Opens with Grandeur
By Iride Aparicio
Photos By: Kevin Berne
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Moses encounter with God, as described in EXODUS , continues the 2017-2018 TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (TWSV) Season with the World Premiere of the musical “THE PRINCE OF EGYPT” a musical, based on a fictionalize version of the story of Moses.
The program informs us that because Moses is revered in several religions, to tell his story took several years in development and hundreds of representatives from different religions were consulted to ensure that the storytelling presented a fair and accurate depiction of the man. The process took over twenty years. It can be traced it to the birth of DreamWorks SKG (l990), when the new company decided to make an animated feature film with music, based on the story of the Book of Exodus for its first product. To write the screenplay, Dream Works tapped Hollywood writer PHILIP LaZEBNIK and composer STEPHEN SCHWARTZ to write the Music and Lyrics. The animated feature was called “THE PRINCE OF EGYPT”
Five years ago, when Dream works licensed a stage version of the animated film, it was adapted to a stage musical by Playwright SCOTT SCHWARTZ. Mr SCHWARTZ is directing this production.
Believed to have been written by Moses, in the year l446 B.C. EXODUS, describes him as one of the children sentenced to death by the Egyptian Pharaoh, RAMSES I, when he ordered his soldiers to kill all the new born male Hebrew children to avoid the propagation of his slaves. Trying to save his life, Moses mother placed him inside a basket of bulrushes daubed with slime and pitch, and lard, and let the ark navigate in the waters of the Nile river, as his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done with him.
Christina Sajous shows the infant Moses to Katherine DELA Cruz,
The basket was found by Pharaoh’s daughter (Queen Tuya in the musical) when she went to wash herself in the river. Hiding the fact that the boy was Hebrew, she decided to pass the baby as her own, and raised him as as an Egyptian Prince, like Ramses II, Pharaoh’s son
There is no background on Moses growing up in Pharos’s palace, in the Bible, but in the musical, we see Moses and Ramses II, as children, playing together. We see them as young men, racing each other’s chariots, (build by a group of actors. some serving as the chariot and others as the horses) with the race enhanced by the song “faster.” And we see them later as grown up men, sharing “The secret room” described by both in a duet, as a room in the palace that only they knew about.
Most of the first Act in the musical is focused on the close friendship of these two men (Their roles represented by JASON GOTAY as Ramses (pictured right in the photo and DILUCKSAHN JEYARATNAM pictured left)
But things begin changing with the introduction of Tzipporah (BRENNYN LARK) a young woman who is brought as a prisoner to the palace and forced to dance “Dance to the Day” a sensual Beduin dance for Moses and Ramses II and Moses helps her escape.
And things change completely for the men, when building Pharaoh’s city Moses observes for the first time the treatment that the Egyptians are given to the Hebrew slaves. and in a rage he kills the Egyptian, who was worshiping the Hebrews After that,he has to leave. Egypt.
In the dessert, Just as he was about to die, Moses meets Tzipporah again (in the musical, because in the Bible’s story, he meets Tzipporah there for the first time) and is invited to live in the house of her father, who was the priest of Midiam and had six daughters and no sons.
In a beautiful romantic scene, Moses falls in love with Tzipporah as both sing “Never in a Million years” looking at a flock of sheep.
Moses, remains in the desert tending his father in law’s sheep until the day when following a a lamb he sees a burning bush, and hears God’s voice, (which in the musical is not a single powerful male voice but the voice of a mix choir singing) Following God’s command, he returns to Egypt to ask Ramses II (who is now the Pharaoh) to free the Jewish people.
Perhaps because the musical had presented Moses and Ramses II as close friends, the musical, does not put much emphasis on Moses pleas to Ramses II. It does not emphasize the many plagues either. What the musical does is personalize the drama in Moses’s mind, (or heart).
When Moses (JEYARATNAM) sings “For the Rest of my Life” a solo, explaining the guilt he feel to cause harm to the Egyptians who raised him as a Prince, and to Ramses II, whose first son must be killed by the plague. We experience the inadequacy he is feeling, his pain. and perhaps the horror, of what he must do to liberate the Hebrews from bondage. And JEYARATNAM singing portrays it as real tragic for him. He loves God and he loves Ramses II, but he knows that he cannot possibly be loyal to both of them. At this point THE PRINCE OF EGYPT the musical turns into an opera.
In the musical the burning bush is created by the cast
Perhaps its theme is operatic, because after we analyze the core of the musical, we become aware that this story is not the story of Ramses II and Moses, but the story about all of us, As humans, we seem to be constantly asking questions such as “What is more important, our family or our work? or Must we feel superior for our ethnicity or should we believe that we all were created equal? We all, wrestle for legacy. We spend our whole lives dealing with things and at the end, we all learn that in this world there is a superior force, that the Italians call “ La Forza del Destino” that reminds us that our lives are not under our complete control
Because the musical was adapted from a movie, it has many scenes, and the scenes must change rapidly. Both the changes and the speed were made possible with the simple but effective Scenic Designs of KEVIN DEPINET, which include blocks simulating stones, back drops, and using actors as props. Helping to put realism in the scenes, are the Choreography of SEAN CHEESMAN, the costumes (ANN HOULD-WARD) the make up (J. JARED JANAS) and the lighting designs (MIKE BILLINGS) allowing them to change rapidly The two outstanding visual scenes in the musical are: The one of the Egyptian women cradling their babies in their arms, after Pass Over, and slowly unrolling the bundles they were carrying, forming a long piece of cloth to visually indicate that their children are no more, and the parting of the Red Sea created with curtains.
In the acting parts THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is professional. Each actor is a good performer and singer, and all vocalize well enough so the audience can understand their dialogue and the lyrics of their songs.
The music (STEPHEN SCHWARTS) is pleasant, the orchestration (AUGUST ERIKSMOEN) adapts it to the action, which includes dancing. The orchestra, conducted by WILLIAM LIBERATORE, allowed the singers to be heard perfectly. On October 15 Press night. THE PRINCE OF EGYPT was received in Mountain View with an standing ovation.
PRINCE OF EGYPT will continue at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts until November 5, 2017. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to TheatreWorks.org.