Tag Archives: Jay Marsh

The Prince of Egypt

★★★★

Dominion Theatre

The Prince of Egypt

The Prince of Egypt

Dominion Theatre

Reviewed – 25th February 2020

★★★★

 

“With its creative and production heft, this will undoubtably be around a long time”

 

Born in ancient Egypt and delivered via an unconventional route, this new work from the creators of Wicked (Dreamwork Theatricals) arrives kicking and ululating in the mighty palace of London’s Dominion Theatre. Having first been an animated feature film, this is the story of Moses told with a lot less religion and a lot more bromance, tracking the relationship between young Ramses and his foundling sibling as they grow close, then apart, then further apart.

A thrillingly executed chariot race kicks off an evening of peerless creative arts, from choreography to video projections, from wardrobe to set design. Then, as Ramses (Liam Tamne) steps up to fill the Pharaonic boots of his father Seti (Joe Dixon), Moses heads the other way down the pecking order, by falling for an enslaved dancer, Tzipporah (Christine Allado). Exile ensues as he pursues her into the embrace of the desert-based Midianites, a blissful commune lead by the genial Jethro (Gary Wilmot) who teach him how to dance in 5/4 time. After meeting up with his previously lost family, in particular sister Miriam (Alexia Khadime), Moses realises his identity and takes up the cause of those Hebrew slaves still slogging themselves to death on Ramses’ pyramids.

Enslaved to an unwieldy source, the script by Philip LaZebnik suffers under the strain, with wars and plagues, exile and deliverance having to be explained through the eyes of two brothers in the few gaps between 25 musical numbers. With so much work to do in a small space of time, some lines edge beyond parody. “Moses!! I haven’t seen you in a long time” says Rameses as if spotting a mate in McDonald’s when Moses returns from exile to let his people go. “How did you let the people go?” complains High Priest Hotep (Adam Pearce) as if the multitude escaping was equivalent to losing your Oyster card. However, it does the job of keeping the action and effects speeding along, especially in the second half with plagues being visited with exhilarating brevity. Hotep is no sooner popping open his vestal top to reveal boils than meteors are descending on the backdrop. But this is all, as intended, creating a thundering, crowd-pleasing display, that bears little analysis (should we really applaud a plague?) but gives excellent opportunity for some impressive visuals. The design team in particular (Kevin Depinet’s set, Mike Billings’ lighting, Jon Driscoll’s projections and Chris Fisher’s illusions) create spectacular landscapes, pyramid interiors and Red Sea partings.

Great effort too has gone into Stephen Schwarz’ reworking of his own score. Best known for Wicked and Godspell, here his music and lyrics wrestle absorbingly with the constraints of Egyptian-sounding cadences (courtesy of Hollywood’s biblical blockbusters) and lilting Yiddish melodies, while blending in some old school rock opera and, inevitably, the saccharine sound of Disney Musicals. The cast is universally highly competent as you might expect, the dancers all limb-perfect in service of Sean Cheesman’s superb choreography. With the two leads perhaps lacking enough contrast, only Alexia Khadime truly soars vocally, but Christine Allado and Gary Wilmot join her in managing to project a third dimension to their originally two-dimensional characters. With its creative and production heft, this will undoubtably be around a long time, but doesn’t have the heart of a Lion King.

 

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Tristram Kenton

 

 

The Prince of Egypt

Dominion Theatre until September 12th

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Big The Musical | ★★½ | September 2019

 

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Violet

Violet
★★★

Charing Cross Theatre

Violet

Violet

Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 21st January 2019

★★★

 

“enjoyable at times but requires more attentive storytelling”

 

A competent and confident cast just about save this somewhat tepid yet redemptive road-trip musical. Jeanine Tesori’s Southern States inspired score, expertly mixing country, blues rock ‘n’ roll and gospel influences, is ultimately let down by a middling script and unfocused lyrics.

Violet (Kaisa Hammarlund) sets out on a Greyhound bus from backwoods Spruce Pine, North Carolina, to Tulsa, hoping to get her facial scar ‘healed’ by a well-known tele-preacher (Kenneth Avery-Clark). An accident with a loose axe head in childhood left Violet both physically and emotionally scarred, meaning relationships formed along the way with soldiers Monty (Matthew Harvey) and Flick (Jay Marsh) are fraught and conflicted. We can all guess where the story goes from here.

Sadly, it is Violet’s story that brings this production down. Despite being just over twenty years old, the gender politics of this musical feel dated and discomforting. Beauty is found, of course, within – but also with a little help from a heterosexual male telling you you’re beautiful. Violet’s experiences of rejection are compared with Flick’s as a racially segregated black male. Furthermore, we never quite get a chance to learn why we should care about Violet’s story. We haven’t learnt anything new about impossible standards of beauty, nor about mid-sixties American culture. Why revive this now?

The musical numbers are varied and enjoyable, but forgettable. “Raise Me Up”, a heartfelt gospel tune belted out by Lula (Simbi Akande), stands out, and yet even this is immediately reduced to a gag about Clark’s preacher’s incorrigibly fake routine. Shuntaro Fujita’s direction is often awkward, with actors left at times to simply stand and sing at each other. Fujita does manage to blend Violet’s childhood memories into the present-day action well. These moments, in fact, prove some of the most effective parts of the production, giving Violet’s beleaguered character some crucial context.

Despite reuniting some of the artistic talent behind last year’s outstanding ‘Fun Home’, this musical lacks the emotional turbulence, coherence and charm of that production. ‘Violet’ is certainly enjoyable at times but requires more attentive storytelling and better lyrics if it wishes to set its sights on the West End.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Violet

Charing Cross Theatre until 6th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Harold and Maude | ★★★★ | February 2018
It Happened in Key West | ★★ | July 2018
Mythic | ★★★★ | October 2018

 

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