Talking about The Prince of Egypt: The Musical

Talking about The Prince of Egypt: The Musical December 7, 2023

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the original animated version of The Prince of Egypt, a movie that redefined the story of Moses and the Exodus for an entire generation. (It was quite telling that, when Ridley Scott directed Exodus: Gods and Kings a few years ago, a lot of the discourse around that film compared and contrasted it to The Prince of Egypt and not to, say, Cecil B DeMille’s Moses movies.)

This week also marks the digital release of The Prince of Egypt: The Musical, a new, expanded version of the story that played at the Dominion Theatre in London’s West End a couple years ago. Like the movie, the stage musical has songs by Stephen Schwartz (GodspellWicked) — but it has a lot more of them, and it makes changes to the story that are consistent with some of Schwartz’s earlier projects.

A filmed recording of the performance played in British movie theatres a few months ago, and my friend Matt Page — the author of 100 Bible Films, and the keeper of the Bible Films Blog — got to see it there. And now I have seen the film for myself, online. I thought it would be fun to talk to Matt about the musical, and about how it adapts not just the biblical story of Moses but the earlier movie about Moses, too.

You can watch our Zoom chat below. Some of the main points we cover include:

  • The question of authorship (1:39).
  • Steven Spielberg’s influence on the original film (3:57).
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, his religious consultants, and Stephen Schwartz’s songs (5:26).
  • Schwartz finally makes the musical his own (8:31).
  • Subversive takes on God in The Prince of Egypt and Children of Eden (10:40).
  • The stronger emphasis on Moses’ relationship with Rameses (13:25).
  • The new subplot with Rameses’ arranged marriage to Nefertari (15:43).
  • The more nuanced take on Rameses’ relationship with his father Seti (18:54).
  • The softening of divine violence in the story (22:14).
  • The stage musical’s sympathy for the grieving Egyptian parents (24:49).
  • The stage musical’s sympathy for Rameses (26:22).
  • The mixed chorus as the gender-neutral voice of God (28:40).
  • The mixed chorus as a reflection of God’s transcendent multi-personal self (34:05).
  • Feminism and the roles of Miriam, Tzipporah, and Yocheved in the story (37:28).
  • ‘When You Believe’ and how it restores Moses’ faith in his leadership (41:29).
  • The biblical precedents for the humility, weaknesses, and flaws of Moses (45:34).
  • Did Moses’ sister and wife get along in the Bible (48:01)?
  • The biblical precedents for the portrayal of Moses challenging God (50:07).
  • How the stage musical ends (spoilers, etc.) (52:50).
  • A few remarks about the stagecraft (1:01:08).

You can watch a trailer for the musical here:

You can also listen to the 2020 cast recording via Spotify and other platforms (note: it’s only 76 minutes, or just a little more than half the length of the full musical):

For further reference:

The Prince of Egypt: The Musical is now available to rent and own digitally.

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