The Prince of Egypt: The Musical Blu-ray Review: Holy Moses

DreamWorks makes another attempt at a live musical theater adaptation of one of their animated films, this time reaching all the way back to their 1998 sophomore effort, The Prince of Egypt. The story follows the biblical tale of Moses as he’s adopted by the Egyptian pharaoh’s family as a baby before leading his people out of the pharaoh’s slavery as an adult. After a few international tryout productions, the finalized musical opened in London’s West End in 2020 shortly before Covid shutdowns, delaying the bulk of its performances until the last half of 2021. The show was filmed during that final run, and is now preserved for posterity on this new Blu-ray release.

Buy The Prince of Egypt: The Musical Blu-ray

The story isn’t the most likely of choices for musical success. Sure, there have been Biblical musicals before, and the plot’s plagues and parting of the Red Sea make for some epic opportunities, but initially it just feels forced. That’s largely due to the visual assault of the hammy ensemble dancers and some unconvincing vocal work by the leads. Eventually those leads settle into their roles, but they don’t get much help from the production design. The Red Sea moment ends up as laughable as the cast is forced to march up the center aisle of the theater, parting the crowd as basic animated visuals play in the background. The plagues don’t come off much better, aside from some spooky lighting. Ultimately, it’s much ado about nothing, an affable enough effort for spectators new to musical theater, but lacking any real substance for serious fans of the form. 

Staging is rather bland, relying far too heavily on projected backgrounds instead of physical sets. The net result is that the entire production feels cheap, like we’re watching a cruise ship show instead of a top-tier West End musical. The random scraps of costuming don’t help, with the lithe young ensemble dancers looking more like extras from a Doja Cat video than downtrodden slaves. Those dancers are tasked with peppy street choreography completely out of step with the musical’s setting, and they’re so ridiculously toned that it’s impossible to take their supposed slavery plight seriously. 

As for the songs, the musical uses some of Stephen Schwartz’s songs from the original movie, adds many more (also by Schwartz), but unless you’re a massive fan of the IP, the only truly recognizable song is “When You Believe”, which appears near the end of the musical. That makes for a fairly dull slog through songs that haven’t aged all that well and new material that is largely unremarkable. 

The multi-ethnic cast mostly passes for vaguely Middle-Eastern and Northern African, making the casting the most seemingly authentic aspect of the show. The standout is Luke Brady in the lead role of Moses, with his singing prowess improving as the show progresses. Less impressive is Christine Allado as Tzipporah, overacting even more than live stage work requires. She has a decent voice, but one that is clearly more suited for pop songs than musical theater. The rest of the cast is generally unremarkable, hitting their marks without leaving any lasting marks in memory.

The Blu-ray presents the musical in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The show is filmed well, seemingly entirely from a show with a full audience, so the cameras remain off stage. Sound is concentrated in the front channels, with mostly ambient audience noise in the rear. No bonus features are present, and the disc is oddly formatted to autoplay again from the start as soon as the end is reached.

I applaud the burgeoning preservation of modern-day musicals on home video, and I’m glad I got to see this show without having to travel to the West End. Although it aims to be so broadly welcoming that it only satisfies the least demanding fans, it’s a competent enough swing for DreamWorks’ ongoing desire to emulate Disney’s success in live theater. 

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Steve Geise

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