The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments
a Kate West review
directed by Robert Iscove
songs by Patrick Leonard and lyrics by Maribeth Derry
Kodak Theatre,
6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028 (Hollywood/Highland)
Contact (323) 308-6363 or or Ticket Master (213) 480-3232
Extended December, 2004

Hollywood’s recent production of “The Ten Commandments” stars Hollywood’s own bad boy celebrity Val Kilmer taking on the daunting role of Moses, prominent biblical hero. Presented by BCBGMaxazria Entertainment, the production is indeed a genuine Hollywood spectacle, housed in the sacred venue of the annual academy awards at the Kodak Theatre. In fact, many of the musical numbers seem like variety show interludes between Oscar nominations with actual streams of fire bursts and projected images of mysterious Egyptian landscapes provided by Robert W. Rang, Inc. and Thomas E. Cluff.

For those of you who never read the bible in school or don’t know Charleston Heston (see D.W. Griffith’s famous film “The Ten Commandments”), the story of Moses takes place in ancient Egypt where Moses, in order to avoid the terrible slaughter of Hebrew first borns, is raised by the Pharaoh and His Royal Family. He is as a brother to Prince Ramses and no one is the wiser until Moses begins to question the official treatment of resident Hebrews. His surrogate mother Queen Bithia confesses that Moses is adopted and he is consequentially banished from the kingdom. Inspired to defend his people, the Jewish slaves, Moses rouses them to rebellion, Pharaoh Seti dies, Ramses becomes the new ruler and Moses returns to free the slaves once and for all. A series of plaques is sent down to Egypt direct from the Wrath of God, (which in this production entails stenciled revolving lights). Ultimately, Moses guides his people to the Promised Land and teaches them to live by the Ten Commandments, conveying the Word of the Lord.

The famous parting of the Red Sea is an effectively staged spectacle (with foam plastic waves and projected filmed water) and Choreographer Travis Payne creates some wonderful moves for slaves and Egyptians alike, but other than that the production is uninspiring. Val Kilmer for one, sleeps walks the part of Moses, virtually pouting, with no real charisma or energy. The music (songs by Patrick Leonard and lyrics by Maribeth Derry) is monotonous and repetitive, with no power to convey true emotion. Director Robert Iscove (original conception by Elie Chouraqui) does what he can with the material at hand and nicely culls strong performances out of the supporting cast. These include Michelle Pereira as Yukebed, Moses’ birth mother, Mark Luna as Joshua (in this particular performance), Luba Mason as Bithia and Lauren Kennedy as Nefertari, Ramses’ wife, the Egyptian Princess pining for Moses. Nita Whitaker as Zipporah, Moses’ wife and Alisan Porter as Miriam, Moses’ sister are solid as well though all the women tend to be rather indistinguishable and it is difficult to get all those biblical names straight. You might want to do a little research before attending. The chorus is strong and entertaining as well, especially after the first few slower numbers.

In short, the overall impression is that of a slick film studio machine churning out entertainment for the visiting tourists but with no real soul. The production does not work as a whole but seems to merely serve as a vehicle for Hollywood ego. If you are interested in seeing where they film the annual academy awards, by all means buy a ticket, but other than that, you aren’t missing much.

Terrific Anniversary Edition:

The Ten Commandments (50th Anniversary Collection)

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