Broadway Kings Make a Praise Worthy Musical “Prince” by Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev

TheatreWorks has a big and spectacular world premiere musical on its hands with “The Prince of Egypt,” playing in Mountain View through November 5

Like in the past, TheatreWorks has introduced us to some spectacular musicals that have gone on to New York to win acclaim and accolades. Let’s hope “Egypt” joins previous successes on Broadway, but for now we’re happy with it being in the Bay Area and then off to Denmark. 

“Prince” has the pedigree to follow in the footsteps of “Memphis,” which started here and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Directed by Scott Schwartz and music and lyrics by his father Stephen Schwartz, one couldn’t ask for a better duo to make a success out of “The Prince of Egypt,” based upon the animated film.

Every  theatregoer knows Stephen. If not by name but by show. Stephen won awards for his work on Broadway with “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell.”  He also has wrote the songs in the animated film version (and added more to the stage version). He also wrote songs for the animated films  “Enchanted,” “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” No wonder he has three Academy Awards, four Grammys and a Tony.

Stephen’s music and lyrics are complemented by the book of Philip LaZebnik, which expands a bit from the animated film and does well at connecting the songs. The stage version also has amazing production values. While the costumes by Ann Hould-Ward are on point, scenic designer Kevin Depinet and lighting designer Mike Billings work in tandem to make a seemingly stark set come to life with vibrancy and amazing visual effects, mostly done with lighting and minor production enhancement. Throw in choreographer Sean Cheesman’s creative use of dancers’ bodies and you’ve got a memorable show on your hands.

None of this is possible without a cast that uniformly has among the best voices I have ever heard on stage. Sorry I missed Diluckshan Jeyaratnam in the live version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” because as Moses he blew me away with his amazing pipes and his acting exemplifies the passion Moses had for his people.  He is well matched by Jason Gotay as Ramses. Also, Paul-Jordan Jansen, as Jethro, is able to channel Brian Stokes Mitchell and is able to soar to the rafters with his rendition of “Through Heaven’s Eyes, ” one of my favorite tunes from the movie version.

Big voices are also needed in the second act ballad, “When You Believe,” as it was released as a single when the movie was out in the late 1990s and sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. But Julie Motyka and Brennyn Lark are definitely up for the challenge, making the song richer and more emotional.

“The Prince of Egypt” on all levels has what it takes to make it to Broadway. But just in case it takes a long detour, see it here through Nov. 5 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.  Tickets and information at www.theatreworks.org.

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