There was a moment in the last couple of days as I listened to ‘Make It Right’ for the umpteenth time that I wondered whether I’d been a bit harsh to The Prince of Egypt when it opened in late February. I’d made the note ‘lovely duet’ at the time and on record, the sweet/strong combination of Liam Tamne and Luke Brady’s voices is an absolute winner as their fraternal connection is tested over soaring contrapuntal melodies and an orchestral backing that flows as effortlessly as the Red Sea.
So too, the show’s most famous song (so much so that the publicity campaign basically centred on it) ‘When You Believe’ has a choral majesty that is undeniable. Alexia Khadime and Christine Allado lead the company with real style – the interplay of their voices in the middle chorus is spine-tingingly lovely – and the incorporation of the Hebrew-sung bridge (led by Mia Lakha) is a rare graceful moment of geo-specificity that works.
But two high points across a whole cast recording doesn’t get you that far. Whilst watching the show, I freely admit that I found myself entirely distracted by the inappropriateness of shoehorning this kind of Old Testament justice into a musical theatre template but without that pulling my attention, the weaknesses of Stephen Schwartz’s score are laid bare.
He’s strongest when focusing on straight MT, as in the two aforementioned songs for when he ventures into the world of cod-Eastern influences, it is cringemaking (would-be bazaar anthem ‘Through Heaven’s Eyes’ ultimately recalls nothing so much as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s far-superior ‘I’m So Good At Yoga’…) if not offensive.
And too often, Schwartz’s music finds itself tending towards the bland. So much attention has been paid to layering in bits of Middle Eastern instrumentation here and there that tune after tune passes by without so much as a hook, and the ‘When You Believe’ motif is reprised almost beyond parody, Choices have been made about the song selection here too, you’d be hard-pressed to notice that Debbie Kurup’s Tuya was in this cast which feels like an offence against culture. So not one for the ages, for me, but I’ll certainly be putting ‘Make It Right’ on my musical theatre faves playlist.