Review: Tuacahn’s ‘Prince of Egypt’ should make you ‘Believe’

L-R: Jacob Dickey as Moses and Alexis Sims as Tzipporah in the Tuacahn Center for the Arts production of "Prince of Egypt," Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

REVIEW — With those pesky tourist audiences gone, leaving behind more open seats, the 100-plus degree temperatures subsiding and the curtain times moving up and allowing more reasonable school night theater opportunities, now is a great time for locals to see Tuacahn’s “Prince of Egypt.”

Oh, and this practically brand-new production is a darn good show.

The show’s creators have a terrific pedigree: the music and lyrics are by famed composer Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Pippin”), who was very involved in Tuacahn’s production, with a book by Phillip Lazebnik, whose name is less well-known than his impressive screenwriting credits that include the animated “Pocahontas,” “Mulan” and “The Road to El Dorado.”

While no songs hit the incredibly high benchmark of Schwartz’ “Wicked,” the more familiar tunes kept from the popular 1998 Dreamworks animated film, like the bookend tunes “Deliver Us” and “When You Believe,” still resonate. And several of the new songs, especially “Footprints in the Sand” and the beautifully haunting “Heartless,” are showstoppers in their own right.

It’s impossible not to compare “Prince of Egypt,” with its bible-rooted story of Moses’ rise as leader of the Hebrews and his relationship with his Egyptian brother and heir to the throne Ramses, to “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.” After all, “Joseph” occurs only a few chapters and several hundred years before, and the fashions (if the stage musicals are to be believed) hadn’t changed much.

But while the aforementioned “Joseph” is all about silly satire and campy fun, “Prince of Egypt” is much more serious-minded. Death and destruction feature prominently, and with good reason, and therefore may not be thoroughly appreciated by young children. “Prince” is definitely more dialogue-heavy as it tries to tell an actual story. Most of the time it does it pretty well, despite a few song-free lags.

L-R: Roderick Lawrence as Ramses and Jacob Dickey as Moses in the Tuacahn Center for the Arts production of “Prince of Egypt,” Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

Interestingly, the story focuses less on Moses’ legend and more on his conflicted relationship with Ramses, giving the musical more depth than expected. But make no mistake, Moses’ miracles are on full display, and Tuacahn’s design team is to be congratulated for some fabulous sets, visual imagery, special effects (The Red Sea!) and projections (The Plagues!) that impress without dominating the overall presentation.

The superlative cast sells both the story and music in every aspect, with powerful performances by Jacob Dickey (Moses), Roderick Lawrence (Ramses) and a very legit Egyptian court featuring Dathan B. Williams (Pharaoh Seti), Nicole Powell (Tuya) and Marcus Hopkins-Turner (a menacing Hotep).

Alexis Sims (Tzipporah) and Santina Umbach (Nefertari) have smaller roles but bring a moving majesty to their characters and songs. Sean Cheesman’s choreography is simple but very creative, effectively supplementing both the characters and their natural environment.

Tuacahn’s “Prince of Egypt” is an ambitious, beautiful show that still may benefit from modifications made for future productions, but in many aspects it typifies “Broadway in the desert” in all the right ways.

“Prince of Egypt” runs through Oct. 20 at Tuacahn Center for the Arts. Tickets are $29 and up. To purchase tickets, call 800-746-9882 or go to the Tuacahn website.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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