Friday, April 2, 2010

In the pattern of the grand design

In which our Diva spins a whole post out of her Song for Today

This time of year, you see The Ten Commandments on a lot of TV stations' schedules. For about a decade now, my tradition has been to bypass Charlton Heston in favor of The Prince of Egypt. It didn't make the money Dreamworks wanted, but it's a gorgeous and heartfelt movie that deserved far better attention than it got. If it had gotten its due... nah, they probably still would have abandoned hand-drawn animation. But the couple of flicks they turned out its wake might have been less forgettable.

The art -- hand-drawn, digital, and groundbreaking sequences blending the two -- is stunning. The voice cast is jaw-dropping, with dialogue spoken by Val Kilmer, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Ralph Fiennes, etc. etc., and singing duties entrusted to the likes of Broadway powerhouse Brian Stokes Mitchell (who created the role of Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime and currently serves as president of The Actors Fund) and the late Israeli superstar Ofra Haza. And the whole is held together by Stephen Schwartz' songs, Hans Zimmer's orchestral score, and a humanity of storytelling that is by turns heartrending and incredibly inspiring.

One of the most memorable sequences -- the portrayal of the final plague, the death of the firstborn -- is nearly silent, and simultaneously terrifying and tearjerking. But what I always go back to is the musical number "Through Heaven's Eyes," sung by Brian Stokes Mitchell as Jethro. The high priest of Midian, who takes in a fugitive Egyptian prince, welcomes him as husband to his eldest daughter, and sees them both away with his blessing to fulfill a mission from the Hebrew God.

In my book? That's a guy with his head screwed on straight.

For some, this is the midpoint of Passover. For others, Good Friday. For still others, it's sacred in the way that any day is that sees warmer winds blowing through and tiny, tender bits of green beginning to unfurl on the trees and bushes. For some, it's just another day.

Whatever it means to you, any day is a good day for what this one has to say.

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