The same Oscar-winning composer who wrote the songs for the 1998 animated film The Prince of Egypt is behind a new musical based on that story that was filmed live in London and is now available on home video.
The Prince of Egypt: The Musical includes a cast and orchestra of 60 performers, which, according to its promoters, makes it “one of the biggest musicals ever staged.” Like the award-winning DreamWorks blockbuster movie, the musical tells the biblical story of Moses leading the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt.
Stephen Schwartz, who won an Oscar for the song When You Believe -- which was on the movie’s soundtrack -- composed the music for The Prince of Egypt: The Musical. The musical includes classical songs along with new tunes.
It was filmed live at London’s Dominion Theatre. Schwartz says the story of Moses is one of a young man “who has everything and then has it all taken away from him and realizes he has a much higher calling in this world.”
In the movie and the musical, Moses grows up with a brother, Rameses, who himself grows up to become the pharaoh whom Moses must face.
“Unfortunately, it's a little bit more current than I wish it were because of the really terrible things that are happening right now in the Middle East,” Schwartz told Christian Headlines and other media members during a virtual interview.
It was Steven Spielberg’s idea back in the 1990s to focus the plot on two brothers, Schwartz said.
“It was about these two young men who love each other and yet are torn apart by what their destinies are and their personal responsibilities [are]. And then: How do you, how can you, deal with the differences -- that you have really significant differences through love rather than through enmity? And I think that idea, I found it very powerful to use this ancient story that everybody knew to explore that idea.”
Schwartz hopes that viewers learn how to be more empathetic in their own lives while watching the musical. He said it’s a “powerful story.”
“I feel what's happened in our society, in contemporary times, is a severe lack of empathy. Everyone is very, very busy looking for his or her own perspective, seeing things through the lens of their own grievances, all of which are valid, but the ability to put oneself in another person's shoes, to try and think about what life, what the world, what a specific issue looks like, through the way they see it -- the more we can do that, then the better we'll all function as a society.
“If there's anything that's really clearly a problem right now in this disaster in the Middle East, but also in so many other areas of our modern life, it seems to me a real lack of empathy.”
The home video version of the musical, he added, gives fans a view that’s better than being on the front row.
“You can experience the spectacle of the show on the stage itself,” he said, “and get the feel for the live performance, but at the same time, because there's a camera, you get close-ups, you're seeing it from all different perspectives, not just from whichever seat you happen to be in.”
The musical is available on home video platforms.
Photo Courtesy: Universal. Used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.