The odd thing about being in the production of The Prince of Egypt musical is that I had never seen the Dreamworks animated film on which it was based until the day before we performed the play at church. And I had had a copy of the video for weeks.
The storyline by Philip LaZebnik and Nicholas Meyer I found to be quite compelling. I had to go back and read the source material, which started in the Old Testament book of Exodus, Chapter 2. There isn’t much there between Moses’ birth as a Jew (placed in a basket in a river to avoid being slaughtered, and taken in by Pharoah’s wife) and him all grown up. So the notion of the fraternal relationship between Moses and Rameses, the son of Pharaoh, made sense. When Moses discovered the secret of his birth, he was understandably conflicted.
The visuals of The Prince of Egypt were quite pleasing; an extra segment with the DVD addressed the process. There were some heavy hitters as voice actors: Val Kilmer as Moses (and also God); Ralph Fiennes as Rameses; Michelle Pfeiffer as Tzipporah (Moses’ eventual wife); Sandra Bullock as Miriam (Moses’ sister); Jeff Goldblum as Aaron (Moses’ brother); Danny Glover as Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law); Patrick Stewart as Seti (the elder Pharaoh); Helen Mirren as The Queen; and Steve Martin and Martin Short as Hotep and Huy (sycophants to the Pharaohs). Martin and Short were the comedy relief, but not in an over-the-top manner that some Disney films,
A criticism of the film is that it takes itself too seriously, not enough fun. I think the conflict of the story makes the approach to the topic with reverence. Yet there was plenty of fun stuff early on, particularly a spectacular chariot race. And it IS a story about slavery and oppression and getting away from the same. I rather preferred this Roger Ebert quote: “If de Mille had seen this film, he would have gone back to the drawing board!”
I suppose I should mention that the play went much better than I would have thought, after the dress rehearsal the day before. The leads were particularly good.
As for me, I was so very nervous Sunday morning that my stomach was a vat of acid. I couldn’t remember the lyrics that morning I knew the previous afternoon, or hardly ANY lyrics; a panic attack that I haven’t experienced in years. Finally, I did my part; I muffed one line near the end, but I guess it went OK. More fun was playing God in the next scene.