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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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High Fidelity

★★★★★

The Turbine Theatre

High Fidelity

High Fidelity

The Turbine Theatre

Reviewed – 1st November 2019

★★★★★

 

“The pitch is perfect, as is the balance of ballads and foot stompers – the ideal mixtape”

 

Nick Hornby’s novel, written nearly twenty-five years ago, was an instant hit capturing the mid-nineties zeitgeist when the notion that ‘boys will be boys’ was just beginning to be chipped away by the new sensibilities. This could have been a death blow for the novel, but the emotional intelligence of Hornby’s writing allowed it to endure; its success leading to the millennial film starring John Cusack and Jack Black, and eventually a stage musical. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire with music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green it premiered on Broadway in 2006 but closed after thirteen performances.

Paul Taylor-Mills’ production at the Turbine Theatre has successfully brought the show up to date while staying true to its roots, and it is safe to say that this sensational reinterpretation will not suffer the same fate. Writer and comedienne Vikki Stone has been brought on board to adapt the script and lyrics, relocating the action back to London and reclaiming the inherent buoyancy and playfulness of the story.

The plot focuses on Rob, the owner of a record shop in Holloway, whose girlfriend, Laura, has just left him. Obsessed with compiling lists and ‘mixtapes’, he recalls his five most memorable breakups before Laura, and eventually his self-examination leads to self-realisation and reconciliation. On paper it should be hard to like the overgrown, commitment-phobic problem child that is Rob. His dated sense of male entitlement should rub you up the wrong way in today’s climate, but Oliver Ormson’s winning performance grabs our empathy with both hands.

Supported by an outstanding cast, the laughs come thick and fast. Robbie Durham and Carl Au as Barry and Dick, the part time hired help in Rob’s record store, complement Ormson, creating a trio that could win awards if that was the goal. But there is a self-deprecatory disregard for approval that is reflected in the characters’ relish in working in a shop that has “zero growth potential”. Yet in this mannish world, the women call the shots. Shanay Holmes, as Laura, knows she has the upper hand, but Holmes underscores her fiery independence with a vulnerability that simultaneously softens and strengthens the character.

Tom Kitt’s score mixes pop with rock, heavy metal and Motown, country and soul with a seasoning of rap and R&B. It could easily be a mess but, aided by director Tom Jackson Greaves’ sharp choreography, the eclectic selection of styles has a cohesive whole. It is a feat pulled off only by the close-knit chemistry of the entire ensemble and band of musicians. The pitch is perfect, as is the balance of ballads and foot stompers – the ideal mixtape. In an age of Spotify playlists, it is refreshing to hear references to cassettes and vinyl. David Shields’ set places us in a bygone world of the record shop, before music went online. But the essential truth of music and its undeniable impact on us remains true and keeps this story relevant and timeless. “High Fidelity” is a timely boost of optimism. Rob would put it at the top of his list of reasons to be cheerful.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior

 


High Fidelity

The Turbine Theatre until 7th December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Torch Song | ★★★★★ | September 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews