‘Prince of Egypt: Live From the West End’ Review: Still a Minor Thrill Despite Being Plagued by Inconsistencies

Kevin Taft reviews Prince of Egypt: Live From the West End, a filmed musical that maintains aspects of what works about the wonderful animated film, but comes up a bit lacking.
User Rating: 7

One of Universal/DreamWorks’ best and most underrated animated films, The Prince of Egypt, finally got the stage adaptation it always called for opening in London in February of 2020 – and then Covid hit. Closing after a month due to all of the West End shutting down, the show reopened for six months in 2021. Universal filmed the production, and it has now been released for all to see… with mixed results.

To be fair, I’m a massive fan of the animated film that it’s based on. It’s a beautifully rendered and directed piece of animation, with gorgeous songs and visuals. Going into the live version, I knew nothing would match the beauty of that film, but I was curious how they’d stage it.

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The Good

The adaptation is by Philip LaZebnik, who worked on the original film, so that’s a plus. He wisely omits some of the goofier elements, like the comedic mystical duo of Hotep and Huy. (Hotep still survives but in a more severe and menacing incarnation.)

The set design does seem small for the story’s epic scope, but London stages are usually a bit smaller than American stages, so that’s to be expected. The set relies a lot on projections (the go-to nowadays), eventually allowing the staging to have a broader scope.

The performers are strong, with Luke Brady as Moses and Liam Tamne as Rameses. Everyone has a stellar voice, especially Christine Allado as Moses’ future wife, Tzipporah, and Alexia Khadime as Moses’ long-lost sister Miriam.

The choreography is a mixed bag, so I’ll start with the good. Often, the ensemble is used to recreate blowing sand, a river of water, the burning bush, or a sea of blood. This is all incredibly inventive and must have looked stunning in person. With the filmed version moving between long shots and closeups, some of the effect is lost, but the intention is vivid.

The Not So Good

Again with the choreography, however, aside from the times that the dancers are used to recreate natural surroundings, the standard ensemble dancing is just that… standard. The choreography is fairly modern and consists of movements seen repeatedly on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance.” Nothing was that original, and most of it seemed out of place.

Similarly, some of the costumes felt anachronistic and not of the period. (Having them all wear sandals doesn’t make up for it.) Also, because of the filmed nature of the show and the ability to get close to the actors, some of the costumes looked cheap and awkward.

While the adaptation is pretty close to the original film, there’s something missing in the characters’ connection to each other and the audience. I never felt the bond between the brothers, so their eventual estrangement doesn’t have much impact. I wondered if there was some disconnect because the show was closed down for over a year due to Covid, and the world was still off-balance, but it’s hard to know for sure.

The songs from the original film are still memorable, but a few of the newly added songs by Stephen Schwartz don’t resonate as much. They are all sung exquisitely but aren’t the earworms the original handful of tunes are.

For fans of live theater and the original film, The Prince of Egypt: Live From the West End is still a treat. Seeing productions that have long since closed is a fantastic way to watch and appreciate a piece of theatrical history. Even when they aren’t wholly successful.

That alone is “all I ever wanted.”

“The Prince of Egypt: Live from the West End” will be available to buy or rent digitally on December 5th.

7
Good
Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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