Video review: The Prince of Egypt

I was so very nervous Sunday morning that my stomach was a vat of acid.

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.

Prince of Egypt at First Presbyterian on Sunday

It’s so odd that Brian Stokes Mitchell started out playing the minor character Jackpot on the television show Trapper John, MD for seven years.

The youth at my church, First Presbyterian in Albany, are putting on, with the assistance of a number of adults, a production of The Prince of Egypt, the musical based on the 1998 animated film. The storyline is adapted from the Moses story in the biblical Book of Exodus. It will take place this Sunday, March 17 at 12:15 pm

In a decision beyond my understanding, I, who am a bit older than 18, have been asked to perform the song Through Heaven’s Eyes, which my character, Jethro, passes along his staff to Moses. Initially, I was reluctant for a few reasons. One is that it was moderately high in my range and modulates even higher. Another reason is that it’s sung in the movie by Brian Stokes Mitchell, only the greatest male singer who regularly performs on Broadway. It’s so odd that he started out playing, as Brian Mitchell, the minor character Jackpot on the television show Trapper John, MD for seven years.

The song also has a lot of tricky lyrics. Thrice it goes “So how can you” or So how do you”, and I had to note that the verbs that follow are in backward alphabetical order – see, measure, judge – which has helped propel the rest of the phrases. Other lines are difficult to spit out clearly in some sections, such as “cool fresh spring”; lots of consonants.

I thought about it quite a bit. But when the director wanted to know whether or not I would participate, I became tired of my own indecision, so I just said yes, masochist that I am.

Meanwhile, listen to the far superior Mitchell version HERE or HERE.

Oddly, this is NOT the first time I ended up singing a Stephen Schwartz song I thought was high in my range. I was in a production of Godspell in New Paltz, NY in 1975 or 1976. Initially, I was given We Beseech Thee to sing, well within my range. Later, though, the director gave me All Good Gifts instead, which was not.

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