Moses (Diluckshan Jeyaratnam, top left) and his brother Ramses (Jason Gotay, right) race their chariots in TheatreWorks’ premiere of “The Prince of Egypt.  (Courtesy Kevin Berne)

Moses (Diluckshan Jeyaratnam, top left) and his brother Ramses (Jason Gotay, right) race their chariots in TheatreWorks’ premiere of “The Prince of Egypt. (Courtesy Kevin Berne)

‘Prince of Egypt’ needs spiritual direction

It’s going to take some divine intervention to guide “The Prince of Egypt” out of the developmental desert and on toward promised land of Broadway. The world-premiere musical at TheatreWorks may have some built-in ratsah with those of strong Jewish identity, but for others, it’s an uneven and surprisingly uninspiring meander through a familiar story.

Almost 20 years after its DreamWorks film origin, composer Stephen Schwartz delivers a revised and frankly improved score that unfortunately gets bogged down by a limp book (Philip LaZebnik), questionable production values, uneven performances and thin direction by son Scott Schwartz.

Costumes by Tony-winner Ann Hould-Ward manage to make wandering in the desert chic and Egyptian royalty clunky.

The scenic design by Kevin Depinet creates a striking first impression, but then just sits there, varied only by Selectavision-grade projections and building blocks that get endlessly, sometimes cleverly, rearranged into thrones and barges. But given that they’re supposed to be stone, it would help if they didn’t wobble when touched.

Then, there’s the parting of the curtains, er… Red Sea. Enough said.

Happily, wonderfully diverse and talented strong, graceful dancers in the ensemble beautifully channel the voice of God, become chariots, celebrate desert life “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” and don’t roll their own eyes during an anachronistic bottle dance chorus line (sans bottles) in “One of Us,” a comedic lament of Hebrew oppression.

Among the principals, Jason Gotay as Ramses and Diluckshan Jeyaratnam as Moses are the best singers.

They create a strong brotherly chemistry, but where Gotay skillfully develops his character’s arc from dude to despot to despair, Jeyaratnam, cherubically affable, seems to blink and transform from prince to slave to leader of his people. He does eventually find his center in “For the Rest of My Life,” a strong score addition reflecting on war and plagues, but then he has to go wrestle with the curtains, er… Red Sea.

They both marry strong women. Jamila Sabares-Klemm channels defiant political ambition through a Vanessa Williams filter as queen consort Nefertari. She then achingly collapses into “Heartless” — another excellent new song — after the death of the Egyptian firstborn, which is one of the most powerfully staged sequences in the show.

Brennyn Lark is clearly nobody’s slave as Tzipporah, the proud Midian who must choose between the family she knows and the Moses she loves.

Other cast highlights include the regal Christina Sajous as Tuya, the queen who plucks Moses from the river, and Paul-Jordan Jansen, the wise and strong-voiced leader of the Midian people.

REVIEW
The Prince of Egypt
Presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Where: Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 5
Tickets: $40 to $100
Contact: (650) 463-1960, www.theatreworks.orgDiluckshan JeyaratnamDreamWorksJason GotayPhilip LaZebnikPrince of EgyptScott SchwartzStephen SchwartzTheaterTheatreWorks

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Scooter companies have expanded their distribution in neighborhoods such as the Richmond and Sunset districts. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board signs off on changes to scooter permit program

Companies will gete longer permits, but higher stakes

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

MARIETTA, GA - NOVEMBER 15: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia taps elbows during a rally for supporters on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Both become senators Wednesday.  (Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Vice President Harris swears in senators Padilla, Warnock, Ossoff

New Democratic senators tip balance of power in upper legislative house

The charismatic Adarsh Gourav, left, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in “The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of the novel by Aravind Adiga.<ins> (Courtesy Netflix)</ins>
‘White Tiger’ takes in-depth look at India’s caste system

‘Identifying Features’ depicts human effects of Mexico’s drug wars

Most Read