Hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from you, a group of determined people is putting the final touches on a massive, musical production of the Exodus story. The biblical story is being given epic treatment — in Utah, of course.
Tuacahn Center, an arts complex that includes a nearly-2,000 seat outdoor amphitheater, sits on the edge of Snow Canyon Square Park near the border of Utah, Arizona and Nevada. The growing theater was developed solely for the purpose of a musical called “UTAH!” — a dramatic reenactment of the state’s founding for mass audiences — and has gone on to become a outdoor regional mega-theater. This summer, the theater is mounting a production on an even grander scale than Utah’s history — the story of the Hebrew slaves’ exodus from Egypt.
“The Prince of Egypt,” Stephen Schwartz’s 1998 Dreamworks animated musical about the exodus, has never seen the Broadway stage. But the “Wicked” composer’s music from the film became a sensation, winning an Academy Award. And the gorgeous, albeit cheesy rendering of the Torah story became imprinted in the mind of an entire generation and their reluctant parents. Schwartz and the movie’s screenwriter, Philip LaZebnik, have adapted the musical for the stage, adding over a dozen new songs as well as additional characters. The musical debuted in 2017 in Silicon Valley, and Tuacahn’s production marks only the second time the show will be performed in the United States.
The Tuacahn “Prince of Egypt” won’t be able to make use of the animated effects that made moments like the parting of the sea look spectacular in the movie. Rather, it will rely on on-stage water features, a wind machine, the massive sky, and a sprawling ensemble.
The musical’s director, Scott S. Anderson, had this take: “You know when you’ve read a book and it’s your favorite book?” he asked. “I mean, everyone’s read this book. So we’ve got to get this right.”
Can’t make it to Utah? Watch the insane production trailer here:
Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny