This week, Australian audiences are in for a treat as the West End production of The Prince of Egypt: The Musical graces the silver screen.
The production opened in 2020 at the Dominion Theatre in London, and has joined the canon of professionally filmed musical productions. It plays across Australian cinemas this week, and will be available for digital download from December 4th. Viewers will embark on a captivating journey through Ancient Egypt, where two young men, raised as siblings in a world of opulence, are abruptly torn apart by a secret past. One is fated to ascend to the throne as Pharaoh, while the other must lead his oppressed people to freedom – but both are entwined in a destiny that will reshape the course of history.
A giant of the Music Theatre industry, Stephen Schwartz is the brains behind the music and lyrics of both the original animated film and its stage adaptation. His illustrious career includes composing beloved musicals such as Wicked, Pippin, and Godspell, earning him multiple awards and accolades. His ability to craft memorable melodies and poignant lyrics has left an indelible mark on the world of theatre, making him a much loved figure of the theatre world.
Schwartz crafted a unique musical palette for the stage adaptation of The Prince of Egypt, alongside orchestrator August Eriksmoen.
I did a lot of research into Egyptian court music, Hebrew folk music, and Egyptian street pop music to really try and capture the flavour of the place and time. There are also several Middle Eastern instruments used as part of the orchestration. I always like creating a world for each show. My friend and frequent collaborator Alan Menken talks about the same thing: he says he likes to know what is the musical palette with which I’m painting for this particular world and this particular show. So obviously for The Prince of Egypt, we try to conjure up that place and that time.
The transition from screen to stage allowed for an expanded narrative and the exploration of deeper emotional layers. “We delve more into the key relationship between the brothers and Ramses and Moses. I think it’s a bit more complex – and maybe a little bit more human – than what one can do in animation,” he comments.
While The Prince of Egypt is rooted in biblical tradition, it possesses a universal appeal that transcends religious boundaries. Schwartz agrees, “We never wanted it to be a ‘my God is better than your God’ story; we wanted to explore human beings grappling with big moral issues and responsibilities. It’s a coming of age story. Moses starts out with no cares in the world, and then both brothers assume these huge responsibilities for their own nations. People respond to that because we all are struggling in this world to try and do the right thing, but still do right by ourselves, our families, the people we love, and the countries we love – and that speaks to people.”
There are some new songs written specifically for the stage show, and Schwartz comments that these allowed him to deeply explore issues that are currently facing humanity:
One is a song called “For the Rest of My Life.” Moses sings it after the plagues, where he is really reckoning with the human cost of what has happened and and his responsibility for it. If you look at what’s happening in the world today, in the Ukraine, in Israel, in Gaza – what are the people doing those things feeling about them? Does it have any impact on their consciences? That song deals with that mindset.
There’s also a song called “Heartless” for a new character called Nefertari, who is this ice princess, pampered her whole life, and suddenly deals with the reality of of bad things happening to her as a human being. It’s humanising people who are caught up in big events. We sometimes think of characters as figures in a landscape, but not as human beings wrestling with these internal issues. These songs allowed me to explore just what we’ve been talking about, the real humanity in these characters.
The release of The Prince of Egypt: The Musical in Australian cinemas is a huge benefit to theatre lovers down under – not only does it allow audiences to see internationally renowned productions much closer to home, but brings us shows that may not even reach our stages.
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT: THE MUSICAL will be in select cinemas from October 19 and will be available to rent and own on digital from December 4.
To find a screening near you, visit www.theprinceofegyptmusicalfilm.com