“Rub Him Outta the Role Call, and Drum Him Outta Your Dreams”

South Pacific

My high school performed this Rodgers and Hammerstein show my junior year. My friend from church, Chelsea was the lead. I was once again simply in the ensemble as a nurse. The show is set on a South Pacific island during World War II (there was a remake in 2001 starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr, and a special concert at Carnegie Hall starring Reba McEntire in 2005 [which was, ironically, the year my high school performed]). Marine lieutenant Joe Cable comes to go on a secret mission to spy on the nearby Japanese and wants local French planter Emile de Becque to help. Emile has also fallen in love with a Navy nurse on the island, Nellie Forbush. Local woman, known as Bloody Mary likes how handsome Cable is and decides he is right to marry her daughter, Liat.

The naval personnel stationed on the island, the “Seabees” start off singing about Bloody Mary, then remark There is Nothin’ Like a Dame (gotta say, love the deep, full tone the men’s chorus achieves.  Ironically, we sang this at a county choir performance the same year). Nellie and the other nurses run by and we find out that sailor Luther Billis runs several side jobs to help people out. This is when Bloody Mary spots Lt. Cable and tells him about Bali Ha’i. From there, we check on Emile and Nellie at Emile’s plantation. Nellie turns out to be a Cock-Eyed Optimist. Both worry that they are not right for the other, but in just a few weeks they have fallen in love. Emile is certain and remarks in Some Enchanted Evening (the most well known song from the show) “once you have found her, never let her go.” Nellie returns to base and Emile’s children come out to see their papa and sing a little French song, Dites Moi.

Lt. Cable has spoken to command and they call in Nellie to ask her questions about Emile, determining whether he is reliable to take Joe to the other island. It is on record that Emile killed a man back in France. This concerns Nellie and she remarks to her friends, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. Unbeknownst to her, Emile has come by; she’s startled out of her dance and rinses her hair to speak to him. He has come to invite her back to his plantation for a party and to tell her more about himself. The man he killed in France was a bully, during a bar fight. Then he asks Nellie to marry him. Relieved and ecstatic, Nellie has changed her tune, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy. But when Emile meets with command, he declines the mission, not wanting to risk his future with Nellie.

gonna wash that man right outta my hair

Frustrated, Cable lets Billis take him to Bali Ha’i. Billis observes the famous boar’s tooth ceremony and Bloody Mary introduces Joe to Liat and he instantly falls in love with the girl who is Younger Than Springtime. He sadly has to leave (after they spend some time together). And after Emile’s party, Nellie finds out about his children and runs off when she realizes he had Polynesian wife before her (I don’t quite get that thinking, but I also wasn’t around during the forties and fifties).

The second half of the show returns to Bali Ha’i and Bloody Mary explains Happy Talk and how fine of a husband Joe Cable will make for Liat. But he won’t abandon his fiancée in Philadelphia. Now Liat will have to marry an older French plantation owner. We’re cheered up a bit by the Thanksgiving show that Nellie puts on. Honey Bun is a fun number, with Luther Billis. Emile has come to see the show and sent Nellie flowers, but when he talks to her, she can’t explain why she is so upset about his previous wife and she runs off. Joe remarks to the Frenchman You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, about racism, which he is struggling with in regards to Liat. But he’s come to the decision that he won’t leave Liat, except it’s time to go on the mission and Emile has agreed, now that Nellie has broken his heart; This Nearly Was Mine.

They land safely and get word back to base about the Japanese’s movements. Nellie finds out that Emile went and her heart decides that she does love him. Sadly, Joe dies on the island (enemy fire) and Emile gets the last news out; the Japanese are pulling out and will be the perfect target. So all the Marines and seamen and nurses gather up to leave. Nellie is with Emile’s children and listen to their reprise of Dites-Moi when Emile walks in. At least one story ended happy.

I have fairly fond memories of performing; one of my classmates asked my brother (on break from a military college) for help. I was still put in horrible costumes, but I enjoyed the group performances. Watching the movie again, the filters are horrible. Some of the music is still good, but I’m not fond of the storyline between Joe and Liat; it’s too sudden. And they know nothing about each other. So, not a favorite.

Next Time: Brigadoon (which is a favorite)

“Thundering, Thundering Louder Than Before”

Music Man

My high school performed this musical my sophomore year; freshman year was 42nd Street, but I did not make cast, so I worked as stage crew…which was an interesting experience. My brother was the train conductor and the sheriff, our neighbor was Tommy. Brandon from church was Mayor Shinn, Chelsea, also from church, was Mrs. Paroo. If I recall correctly, the guy who played Professor Hill has never been in a show or even choir before he got the role. I was simply in the ensemble [and also wore costumes that did not go with my complexion…we rented costumes and backdrops from New York so those people at the warehouse were only paying attention to size]; some of the girls who could pull off looking younger played children and they borrowed band uniforms.

The 1962 film stars Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill and Shirley Jones (the mother of The Partridge Family) as Marian Paroo. I recognize Mary Wickes (White Christmas, Aunt March in 1994’s Little Women, she voiced the gargoyle Laverne in Hunchback of Notre Dame and appears in The Trouble with Angels and Sister Act) as Mrs. Squires. A young Ron Howard (after he began on The Andy Griffith Show and long before Happy Days and then the days he started directing and producing movies) is Winthrop Paroo.

Rock Island opens the show with the salesmen keeping time with the train as it speeds up (oh, and check out a video of Hugh Jackman doing it; he auditioned with the song once and is due to star in the show on Broadway). The salesmen discuss their trade and then Professor Harold Hill is brought up as the worst kind of salesmen with empty promises. The train stops in River City, Iowa. Hill happens to have been on the train and gets off to try to sell a boys’ band to the unsuspecting town. Iowa Stubborn explains the people’s viewpoints: “a special chip on the shoulder attitude;” the American Gothic couple even shows up. Hill discovers one of his old friend is in town and enlists his help. What’s new that he can paint as bad so that parents will pay for their sons to enter a boys’ band. There is a new pool table; Hill uses it. “Ya Got Trouble, right here in River City, with a capital ‘T’ that rhymes with ‘P’ that stands for ‘pool’.”

Hill’s next step is to cozy up to Marian Paroo, the local piano teacher and librarian, but she does not fall for any of his lines. Her mother on the other hand is worried that Marian will end up alone (they get in an argument in tune with student Amaryllis’s piano exercise). Amaryllis also has a crush on Marian’s younger brother, Winthrop, but laughs at his lisp. Marian encourages Amaryllis to sing Good Night, My Someone until the right man comes along.

The town gathers for a patriotic day and we meet Mayor Shinn, and his wife, Eulalie Mackechnie. Mayor Shinn is a little bumbling, but tries to keep order. [My brother, as the sheriff had to practically tackle Tommy because he ran a little too fast and was almost off stage; it was funny.] Hill stops by and riles the crowd up about the pool table and breaks into 76 Trombones, painting an exciting picture of a shiny marching band in town. Mayor Shinn instructs the school board to get the man’s credentials. But Hill manages to distract everyone whenever the subject is brought up. He turns the bickering school board into a barbershop quartet. He takes in Tommy, a local troublemaker and hooks him up with Shinn’s eldest daughter (they were already seeing each other). Hill claims to be a graduate of “Gary Indiana Conservatory, class of aught-five,” and the way the boys will learn their music is a revolutionary idea called the “think system.”

Hill even charms Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn and her gossip ladies to form a dance group so they won’t bug him about his credentials. They also Pick-a-little, Talk-a-little about Marian Paroo and how “she made brazen overtures” to old miser Madison (whom half the buildings in town are named after). “He left River City the library building, but he left all the books to her.” The ladies feel that Marian’s suggestions are dirty books (like Chaucer, and they emphasize Balzac). Hill is intrigued by the idea and remarks to his friend later that he prefers the Sadder, but Wiser Girl. [The lyric “I want Hester to win one more “A” was a bit funny for the sophomore class, since we read The Scarlett Letter that year in English class (and analyzed it to death)]. So Hill heads over to the library to flirt with Marian. He claims “I love you madly, madly, madam librarian, Marian!” Marian keeps shushing him.

music man castAt home, she discusses the incident with her mother; it’s not that she wants to be single all her life, but the right man has not come along. Most stage productions, including ours, include the song My White Knight, which I find rather romantic, for she doesn’t want a true white knight, but rather a more common man, but with shared interests. But the 1962 film switched it to Being in Love. The town is excited when the Wells Fargo Wagon rolls into town, each wishing for something special. It carries the instruments and Winthrop excitedly shows it to Marian, speaking for the first time in years, not worried about all the “s’s.” The look in Marian’s eye changes. In fact, she rips a page out of a book before handing it over to the mayor.

Life continues peacefully for a few days, until one of the salesmen from the beginning train stops back into town and runs into Marian. He has proof to put Hill away, but she distracts him. She has begun to care for Harold and eventually agrees to meet him at the footbridge during the town’s evening social. The young people enjoy the Shipoopi dance. On the bridge, Marian reveals her feelings to Harold, Till There Was You. She knew that Harold was lying shortly after he arrived; Gary, Indiana didn’t have a Conservatory class in 1905, because the town wasn’t built until 1906. Harold’s friend has noticed that the salesman is in town and advises Harold to leave, but Harold doesn’t want to know, because he has fallen for Marian. He attempts to hide at her house while the town searches for him and answers Winthrop’s questions about his lies. He’s caught and brought before the town. Marian defends him; River City has been a better place since Harold’s arrival; the children have been excited for weeks. Tommy brings the kids’ out in uniform and Harold directs as they play (badly) Beethoven’s Minuet in G. The parents are so proud. Then he gets to lead a parade, complete with 76 trombones.

76 trombones

In my production, I remember the ladies come up to Marian at the end; they’ve finally tried her book suggestions and love them.

In 2003, Disney produced a version starring Matthew Broderick (the voice of Simba, the titular Ferris Bueller, and paired up with Nathan Lane for The Producers two years later) as Professor Harold Hill, Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda in Wicked and Lily St. Regis in Disney’s Annie) as Marian Paroo, and Victor Garber (he keeps popping up; Disney’s Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Disney’s Annie, and Titanic) as Mayor Shinn. While a good rendition, I feel that Matthew Broderick is missing some of the pizzazz that Robert Preston showed in the role.

Up Next: South Pacific

“My Heart’s Keeping Time to the Speed of Sound”

I love musicals. Some of my earliest memories are listening to Cats [we named one of our cats “Tugger” after Rum Tum Tugger] or Phantom of the Opera with my mother. (Dad was classic rock on the radio or The Beach Boys). I took dance lessons for eight years and I started singing in church choir in kindergarten; I played the piano, flute, and viola. I would create my own dances in living room to songs as a kid. At one point I wanted to be on Broadway, but I hate practicing and I realized early on that I would have to be very lucky, no matter how good I was. I was fortunate to have good music instructors; the Ellenbergers as a child in church, Dr. Barr once I got to college. I fully support singing in the shower and my favorite part about driving is singing in the car. I’ve learned most songs without ever seeing sheet music or lyrics; just repeatedly listening. I remember music (well, more singing than actually playing) better than some school subjects.  I always sing along to those “try not to sing” videos with musicals and love it when I know a song.

I was excited for high school since it meant I could be in musicals. Freshman year, I did not make it into 42nd Street, so I went on stage crew, which was fun in its own right. Sophomore year was Music Man, junior year South Pacific, and senior year was Brigadoon. I was always in the ensemble; which I was happy enough to at least be in the shows, but still stung a little, especially senior year. I joined choirs in college and wanted to get involved with the theatre, but I already had a double major (Creative Writing and History…like y’all couldn’t tell), and part of the Honors Program and after joining choir, I figured I wouldn’t have enough time to do everything.

I believe I have mentioned before that I was on cast at a local-ish (it’s an hour from my house) medieval faire one summer; and it was a blast. But I can’t always make that time commitment. I still appreciate the work the cast goes through every year. My community is lucky enough to have a volunteer chorale and theatre group, but working retail means I rarely have time to get involved. I managed to participate in the chorale for two years and then left, for reasons.  Still love musicals, always will. I will probably still dance around my room. And now I share that love with all of you.

Some classic or well known musicals that are not entirely my favorites, but I figure deserve at least a mention.

West Side Story: This is an iconic show and Steven Spielberg is actually working on a new version, possibly due out this year. Features gangs in New York City in the 1950s, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and screenplay by Ernest Lehman (he’s also done the screenplay for Hello, Dolly and Sound of Music). The film won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and is a modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. I do not like Romeo and Juliet, so I’m not terribly fond of this story (it also ends really sad). But, I love the music and dancing. A lot of what the men do is a crossover between ballet and modern. America is my favorite number. As part of a choir, I have sung a medley of several numbers. Tonight is pretty, but schmaltzy, as is Somewhere (I vaguely remember singing that for high school graduation). Gee, Officer Krupke is a bit funny.

Fun note: the teacher at the dance played Gomez Addams in the 60s television series. Riff, leader of the Jets, is played by Russ Tamblyn, who we will see in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (for some reason, his character reminds me of Captain Kirk from the original series; I think it’s the hair and the fact he wears yellow). The film also famously stars Natalie Wood, and Rita Moreno (I was surprised to learn she voiced the titular Carmen Sandiego in the 90s educational cartoon Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? along with appearing in The King and I).

My Fair Lady: Julie Andrews starred in the original Broadway run of this show, but the part went to Audrey Hepburn for the film; Julie was cast in Mary Poppins instead (for which she went on to win an Academy Award). I don’t mind a couple of the songs, like With a Little Bit of Luck, but the show drags. I do imagine that it is hard for someone who has spoken proper English to spend half the show with a rough accent (maybe we should have studied this in my Historical Development of the English Language Class).

The King and I: A classic Rodgers and Hammerstein that tells the story of British (actually Welsh) Anna Leonowens traveling to Siam (present-day Thailand) as governess to the king’s many children in his effort to join the modernizing Western world. Of course, the two disagree at first, but eventually fall in love. It actually is a bittersweet ending, just when they both realize they care for each other (after avoiding each other for weeks due to an argument), the king dies. The story takes place in 1862, so mentions are made of Queen Victoria and the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln (the king wants to send elephants to aid the war effort). Slavery is brought up and the play based upon Uncle Tom’s Cabin that the one wife creates is…interesting.

shall we dance

The children are adorable. This time period also means that Anna wears large hoop skirts the entire time (a bit humorous when the Siamese ladies try to wear them). There are two songs in this production that I really like, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance. The film stars Deborah Kerr as Anna, Yul Brynner (who created the role of the King on Broadway, along with playing Rameses in 1956’s The Ten Commandments) as King Mongkut, and Rita Moreno is back as Tuptim.

Singin’ in the Rain: As with many other musicals on this list, I don’t mind a few songs. The titular song that Gene Kelly famously dances is a great piece, but I like Moses Supposes or Make ’em Laugh better. Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds also stars in the film.

Oklahoma: A classic that, like West Side Story, I am not fond of the story; it gets creepy at the end. The only reason we own a version on DVD is because it stars Hugh Jackman.

Yankee Doodle Dandy: An old musical, from the forties, in black and white, starring James Cagney as George M. Cohen, who wrote Over There, Give My Regards to Broadway, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and You’re a Grand Old Flag; all of which appear in the musical. I’ll sometimes watch it around Independence Day.

RENT: I have never seen the show, but I do like Seasons of Love and enjoy parts of La Vie Bohem. My friend Nikki likes the show (oh, and Idina Menzel appears in the movie version).

Sweeney Todd: Saw it once, against my will on a bus trip. Nope, nope, nope. Doesn’t help that it was directed by Tim Burton (I am not a Burton fan), and stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew). Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and everyone in the most recent movie did their own singing. Angela Landsbury was the first Mrs. Lovatt, and ain’t that a way to mess with your mind. In case you are unaware, a major part of the musical, which is subtitled The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is two of the main characters bake people into pies. Hence why I didn’t want to watch it in the first place, but I was outvoted (so I hid), and why I will never watch it again.

Into the Woods: One of Stephen Sondheim’s most well-known shows. I have only seen the film version from 2014. It is a star-studded production with Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone (we’ll see him in Les Mis), James Corden, Emily Blunt, Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, and Chris Pine. I admit that Agony with Chris Pine was hilarious. I liked his character, until he turned out to be a jerk. All the performances were great, but it is a darker look on our favorite fairy tales – that’s the point, taking them back to their roots.

Wicked: I have not read the book it is based on, which tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz (I believe I have already mentioned, not a fan of the movie). But, I saw the show in Chicago while on a college choir trip. Idina Menzel really made her name for her role as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) and played opposite Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda. The show explains the backstory of many of the supporting roles from Wizard of Oz and really makes Elphaba sympathetic. Stephen Schwartz composed the music and I have sung a medley of the tunes in choir in high school, such as One Short Day, For Good, and of course, Defying Gravity (I do like this song and is an awesome solo to belt out). What is This Feeling and Popular are hilarious. There are rumors of making a movie out of the show.

Chicago: I like All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango; I do not like the story. The 2002 film stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

Footloose: I actually prefer the newer one. The original starred Kevin Bacon (andnew footloose included music, like the title track by Kenny Loggins, who also did Danger Zone from Top Gun). Big city kid moves to small town to discover they have outlawed dancing due to an accident several years ago. He hooks up with the preacher’s daughter, Ariel, who’s acting out against her father. Everything is eventually resolved and they do hold a dance at the end. The newer version came out in 2011 and starred Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars pro) as Ariel and Kenny Wormald (a professional dancer as well) as Ren. Dennis Quaid plays the town’s preacher. It was updated from 1984 and I like the newer dance moves, though it is a very close remake. There’s a fun country song by Big and Rich, Fake ID (I can stand country music, I will not claim it as a favorite). Ok, the demeaning way his friend talks about women sometimes makes me want to slap him.

Hairspray: The 2007 film was an all-star cast with John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Allison Janney, Brittany Snow, and Zac Efron. I enjoyed it for the most part, and I still remember all the words to You Can’t Stop the Beat (the ending of the movie is a lot of fun), which I sang as a freshman in high school choir [translating to over ten years ago].

High School Musical: I was in high school when these came out. It made stars out of Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and Zac Efron, and was directed by Kenny Ortega. The original was better than either sequel. It was a bit funny when they featured it in an episode of Suite Life of Zach and Cody with the running gag that Maddie didn’t look like Ashley Tisdale (Ashley played Maddie). When I was in Disney senior year, my friends and I joined that Pep Rally they had going on and learned the dance to We’re All in This Together (so when ABC just did their Disney Sing-Along Night; which I loved period, it was fun to see the cast reunited and doing the dance). The soundtrack is a bit nostalgic.

org hsm

Now, my experience in high school musicals was different than depicted here; a lot of my classmates were involved in the arts (our school supported students being well rounded with academics, arts, and athletics). Our marching band was over 200 strong, the lead guy senior year musical was on the football team (actually, football players had a habit of being in our musicals), track practices didn’t start until musical was done, a bunch of the kids were also in Advanced Placement courses…we were all just a bunch of overachievers. Yeah, we don’t Stick to the Status Quo. I do think this movie helped get more kids interested in musicals, making it more relevant to them.

Next: We will carry on with musicals, starting with Music Man.  Let me know what some of your favorite musicals are.

“I Sent the Swarm, I Sent the Hoard, Thus Said the Lord”

Prince of Egypt

I probably should have included this around my Disney section since it’s an animated film; but I had forgotten. Besides, the soundtrack is phenomenal. One of the first full length films produced by DreamWorks (same company who would later create one of my favorites: How to Train Your Dragon, and did you know that Steven Spielberg is one of the founders?). Includes a stellar cast: Val Kilmer voices Moses, Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) voices Rameses, Michelle Pfeiffer is Moses’ wife, Tzipporah, Sandra Bullock is Hebrew Miriam and her brother Aaron is voiced by Jeff Goldblum. Danny Glover is Tzipporah’s father, Jethro and Patrick Stewart is Rameses’ father, Seti, with his queen voiced by Helen Mirren. Steve Martin and Martin Short are the priests, Hotep and Huy. Hans Zimmer composed the score and Stephen Schwartz ( he also wrote for Disney’s Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ella Enchanted, and Wicked) wrote the lyrics.

It tells the story of Moses and the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. The film opens with Deliver Us, illustrating the plight of Hebrews as slaves in Egypt. Seti, the pharaoh, has just issued the order to slaughter newborn Hebrew boys. Moses’ mother and her older children sneak to the river, put baby Moses in a basket and set him adrift, praying her son will have a better life. Her young daughter follows the basket, making sure he arrives safely, to the pharaoh’s wife (biblically, his daughter instead).

The film jumps to two young men, Moses, and his older brother, Rameses, racing cartsprinces of egypt through their father’s buildings. They cause mayhem and are chastised by Seti afterwards. He expects a lot from Rameses, who will succeed him as Pharaoh. Moses pleads for his father to not blame Rameses and suggests that his older brother only needs an opportunity to prove himself. Rameses is granted that opportunity at a banquet that night; Rameses in turn elevates Moses’ position. Priests Hotep and Huy are told to give the princes a gift; they have captured a foreign young woman. Moses is not the kindest to her upon meeting, but that night, he distracts guards to let her escape. He follows her to the slave quarters where he encounters Miriam and Aaron. Miriam thinks her brother has knowingly come, but he is unaware of his true heritage. Aaron pleads for mercy, but it’s not until Miriam repeats their mother’s lullaby that Moses realizes the woman speaks truth when she declares “I know who you are, and you are not a prince of Egypt.” She suggests he asks the man he calls father.

Moses runs back to the palace, trying to take comfort in All I Ever Wanted. He knows his history, it’s etched on every wall. So he investigates. And finds proof of what Miriam said, playing out as animated drawings on the walls. Seti attempts to comfort his son; Moses begging his father, “tell me you didn’t do this.” Seti considers it a sacrifice for the greater good, his parting words “they were only slaves.” (That just sounds so wrong coming from Patrick Stewart).  The Queen does a bit better, but she counsels that Moses should simply ignore the truth; “when the gods send you a blessing, you don’t ask why it was sent.” It does show that his family have never looked down on him for being adopted; Rameses may have been young enough he doesn’t even remembering his mother finding his baby brother.

Yet Moses wanders confused the next day. He accidentally kills an overseer who was beating an elderly Hebrew. He flees; Rameses attempts to stop him, telling his brother he can absolve him of his crime; “you will be what I say you are.” If Rameses wants the truth, Moses instructs him to “ask the man I once called father.” Moses still leaves. Eventually, he removes all pieces of his old life, aside from the ring his brother gifted him. A camel comes across him and he is dragged to a watering hole. He saves three young girls, then promptly passes out into a well. Their older sister, the same woman Moses freed comes to help, though she remembers the prince and lets him drop back into the well. Their tribe takes Moses in; the priest happy to thank a strange young man for saving his daughters. Moses quietly tells the boisterous man he has done nothing worth honoring; which the woman, Tzipporah finds odd, but her father explains a better mindset to Moses. People on earth cannot see their true worth; they should look at their lives Through Heaven’s Eyes (I love this song).

Moses becomes a part of the tribe, becoming a shepherd and eventually marrying Tzipporah. One morning, while tending his flock, one sheep wanders off. He goes after it and comes across the Burning Bush. God speaks to him and tells Moses to go before Pharaoh and free the Hebrews. Moses is unsure, but God promises to be with him and instructs Moses to take his staff, with it, he will do God’s wonders. Tzipporah is initially unsure, but Moses wants the same freedom that her family has for his people. She tells her husband she will go with him back to Egypt.

Rameses is now Pharaoh, so the brothers share a joyful reunion, until Moses tells his brother why he has come. As much as Moses wishes in his heart, things cannot be as they were. Pharaoh must release the Hebrew slaves. To demonstrate God’s power, Moses has his staff turn into a snake. To prove that their gods are just as great, Hotep and Huy mock that Moses is Playing with the Big Boys and they too turn staves into snakes (with smoke, and in the background Moses’ snake devours theirs). After the demonstration, Rameses and Moses speak privately. They’re brothers for a brief moment, recalling that while Moses got Rameses into trouble, he also got him out. (Ralph Fiennes commented behind the scenes “when brothers are enemies, they don’t stop being brothers.”) But life has made them different people and Moses return’s his brother’s ring. Rameses doubles the Hebrew’s workload in retaliation. The Hebrews disparage Moses, but he continues with his mission, with some kind words from Miriam; God saved Moses, he should not give up on the Hebrews. Moses approaches the river and turns it to blood for Pharaoh. The priests imitate the phenomenon, but Moses warns Rameses that matters will only get worse.

The Plagues descend upon Egypt. Frogs, then bugs and flies infest Egypt. The livestock die. Locusts blot out the sun. Egyptians are covered in boils. Fire rains down, then darkness. While a choir chants in the background, Moses cries that it pains him to see what has happened to his home. But he blames Rameses for “all the innocent who suffer for your stubbornness and pride.” Rameses (this is Ralph Fiennes singing; several of the other characters’ singing voices were dubbed) will let his heart be hardened, “I will never let your people go.” The last plague is the death of the first born; Moses instructs the Hebrews to mark their doors with lamb’s blood, and the angel of death will pass over their house. Rameses young son is killed. Moses meets with Rameses; Pharaoh will let the Hebrews leave. But Moses mourns for his brother’s loss and his own.

when you believe

Miriam cheers the people, “there can be miracles, When You Believe.” The song becomes more joyful by the time the children beginning singing in Hebrew (I sang this song as a child in church choir, probably the first time I ever sang in another language…actually, I think the same director taught it to my junior high choir as well). Then they come to the Red Sea. And Pharaoh has decided he will not let the Hebrews go and chases after them. Moses parts the sea with his staff; God has sent down a pillar of fire to bar the Egyptians. Once they’re almost through, the fire dissipates and the Egyptians charge. But the parted sea returns to its home, destroying the army. Moses has succeeded in his mission. The ending of the film shows him descending from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.

This film, which has since been adapted into a stage show,  came out when I was five or so and I still enjoy it to this day. Once again, the music is phenomenal (ooh, an adult church choir should really do The Plagues; that’d be cool) and the characters were well casted; though it wasn’t until I was older that I began recognizing the voices. The studio managed a good retelling of the Bible story (they consulted with many religious experts and even went to Egypt for research purposes) and made the royal Egyptian family sympathetic at times (it was banned in Egypt, however). I will say that the animation quality of DreamWorks has come a long way since this film (they have done a spectacular job with Dragons; their characters are so lifelike), but it is a different style than the classic Disney look. I highly recommend this film.

Up Next: A proper introduction to more traditional musicals