I had a lot of fun editing this video together for a piano piece that I composed. I have gotten overwhelming feedback from my community, and wanted to share it with you here. Watch some special people journey the narrow paths between their mountain tops and deep valleys as Jonathan Paper presents: Hope & Courage. An original cinematic piano piece.
Episode 4: A Mum’s Guide to VeggieTales (Guest Episode)
Join JP and his sister Anna as they discuss her kids’ interactions with VeggieTales and its characters, stories and some favourite songs! Anna answers the question, “Is VeggieTales primarily entertainment for kids, or Bible teaching?” What impresses her about the writing? Also, catch them having some goofy sibling fun!
Episode 3: Top 5 Silly Songs Ever!
Join your host JP on a tour around VeggieTales memories, while learning his Top 5 Silly Songs with Larry songs! Hear about his opinions on a Silly Song which has a spiritual message – but would Mike approve? What does a lion and an angel have in common, in Veggieland? What is his Number One song?? Plus, a new Veggie News segment about an upcoming VeggieTales Movie. You won’t want to miss out on this episode!
Episode 2: The History of Larry-Boy, and Being Angry About Eyebrows
What “eye-popping” action can we get in Episode 2? Join our host JP with a blast from the past as he runs over details of past Larry-Boy episodes, the controversy over the re-designed characters for Netflix’s VeggieTales in the House, and a review of the newest Larry-Boy episode “The Angry Eyebrows”. Is it better in 3D? Plus, listen to JP get excited over ‘The coolest thing in Veggietales for over a decade.’
The Prince of Egypt: The Original Cast Recording – A Compelling Review
Ever since I saw Dreamworks’ animated film The Prince of Egypt in theatres, I have loved the movie and it’s music. Early this year when I discovered that a West End show had been produced, I squealed. Universal Pictures now owns Dreamworks, so I believe that is the reason why we are finally getting a stage adaptation of this movie – even though in recent years, Dreamworks has all but disowned The Prince of Egypt as one of their animated classics. Universal also produced the effervescent Wicked on stage.
Due to the current pandemic, performances in London have closed, but the posthumus release of the soundtrack makes me think they will resume after things settle down. It is my pleasure this weekend to review the newly released Original Cast Recording of The Prince of Egypt: A New Musical.
The Prince of Egypt tells the enduring Bible story of the Israelite Moses, who grew up as royalty in Egypt, after his mother tried to protect him from death as an infant. He is later banished to the desert but then called by Yahweh – the one true God – to complete a mission that may change the course of history forever.
The stage show’s new songs are written by Wicked mastermind Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote the songs for the 1998 movie. In the following paragraphs I will go through some of the songs and give my critique.
Deliver Us (The crowd pleaser.)
The epic opening number Deliver Us sounds like a carbon copy of the movie’s version, and that is a good thing. Any fan will be able to sing along as they sit down for the performance. There is some dialogue that made my ears perk up: “We must find a good name for you!” says the queen when she finds Moses in the water. Miriam suggests the name ‘Moses’ but the queen asks what it means. Miriam goes on to say that ‘Moses’ means “deliverance.” This is inaccurate. Exodus in the Bible explains: ‘Moses sounds like the Hebrew for draw out.’ This does not bother me in a creative sense, but it was glaringly obvious as a student of the scriptures.
As in the film, This horse racing scene is used to set up Moses’ relationship with his brother, the Crown Prince Rameses. The melodious drumming of the horses hooves reminds me of The William Tell Overture. The last line, “I won!” sung by both brothers brings the humour of the original scene, used to show the characters as likeable. I can’t wait to see the stage effects to show the horse race.
One Weak Link (A fascinating use of music.)
With a tune that is begins just like Hans Zimmer’s 1998 score, Pharaoh Seti sings One Weak Link after Rameses makes a dire mistake. This phrase is repeated throughout the show, defining Rameses’ motivation to refuse letting the Hebrews leave Egypt. It seems a bit overdone, listening to the soundtrack in one sitting. I imagine in the atmosphere of the theatre it would be fine.
All I Ever Wanted (The best song on the soundtrack?)
This track begins with a beautiful rendition of Hush Now, sung strongly and clearly by Alexia Khadime, playing Moses’ long-lost sister Miriam. When Moses’ All I Ever Wanted comes into play, it gives me the feels. This song is better than in the movie. The new arrangement is abundant in sweeping, anthemic phrases. This is the point that the soundtrack came into its own. Well done, guys! On a side note – in the film, The Plagues was essentially a reprise of All I Ever Wanted, but that doesn’t happen in the stage show.
Make it Right (Moses meets the mark musically.)
This song appears at a point in the story when Moses has committed a terrible act, and Rameses wants to remove the dire consequences with his royal power. The song begins with Rameses, but it is only when Moses begins at the halfway mark that it becomes a good song. It brings back the same emotions as All I Ever Wanted, and you can tell that it’s leading somewhere. Somewhere dramatic, and perhaps tortured.
Never In a Million Years (A beautiful love song.)
This is a love song between Moses and his love interest Tzipporah, and is far and away the best original song in this version. It feels like it could be a chart-topping single and is a nice addition.
Act 1 Finale (Moses meets the Creator.)
The filmmakers told the story of creating the famous scene where God appears to Moses near a bush defying flames to stay alive. They considered creating the voice of God using a mix of voices: child and adult, male and female. Instead they opted to use Val Kilmer, the actor for Moses. On the stage, they have gone back to the original idea, using a co-ed choir, in a chanting/choral style as the voice of God. This is a creative choice that annoys me bit. In the Bible, there is at least one maternal reference to God, even though He is communicated about mostly in male terms. Also, I was dying to hear Hans Zimmer’s gentle and powerful score replicated here in song, but sadly it is not. Instead, we have a choral arrangement which is bold and direct and has great momentum, moving us straight to Act II.
For The Rest of My Life (The little song that couldn’t.)
There is a scene in The Prince of Egypt which I did not notice as a child, of Moses crumbling in tears due to the weight of responsibility he is given by God. He bears the weight for the good of his people. It moved me when I watched it again as an adult. For The Rest of My Life is sung by Moses at the same place in the story, but it does not do that feeling justice, which disappoints me but doesn’t surprise me. It would be a hard thing to execute well.
The inspirational one: When You Believe
The choral work is sweet and refreshing. My note above called Deliver Us a crowd pleaser, but When You Believe is the hit song of The Prince of Egypt and brings a lot of joy to the audience. But…the words aren’t true.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe
I don’t achieve miracles, God does. But it is nice that the deliverance from Egypt is linked to the words prayer and hope. And miracles, which indicates the divine. This track includes some dialogue from Tzipporah saying that she will never see her family again due to the exodus, but this is inaccurate compared to the Bible. She was reunited with her father after the Red Sea experience. Jethro also got to meet his grandchildren!
Insights on The Prince of Egypt: A New Musical
Based on the limited information we are given on the soundtrack, it seems that Rameses decides not to pursue the Hebrews across the Red Sea. This is a ginormous deviation from the Biblical text. In reality, Pharaoh is demonstrated as a man who hardened his own heart before God hardened it some more. But what they do here makes the ending a bit happier. The ending of Schwartz’ Wicked was changed to have a happy ending during workshops before it premiered on Broadway. I suspect the writers of The Prince of Egypt: A New Musical followed suit.
For the most part, the songs from the movie are the best ones, but I have told you about a few wonderful moments throughout the album. Will you join me in listening? It’s available on multiple streaming platforms. Thanks so much for reading this review! If you liked it, please share this review with your friends and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!
The Lady at the Bus Stop – Short Original Fiction
Original Fiction by Jonathan Paper.
She cast a striking silhouette, black against a white sky. As large lorries hurtled by, her colour changed between brown, gold and black. I could see the sun behind her; a star, flung into the sky at the dawn of time, stuck in a strong place. Her face was hidden, but by light. That captivated me.
She sat down. It was then that I noticed her reason for catching the bus. The 207 bus took me to the community centre every Thursday. Needlework last year. This year they were teaching me how to cook. I had to get off at Stop 39. The hospital was Stop 38.
She groaned with pain, clutching her round belly. Though uncomfortable, she got out her phone and jabbed on the screen. “Danny?” She said. “The baby is coming. Can you – no?” She breathed sharply and shifted her weight. “Okay, I’ll meet you after work.”
And the bus arrived.
Picture Credit: Linnaea Mallette (Public Domain Pictures.net)
A note from Jonathan
I had a good time writing this snapshot. If you like this story about this lady’s trials at the bus stop, please share the post or subscribe on WordPress. I also welcome all comments below.
The hidden meanings behind Disney’s Stargirl
I watched the new movie Stargirl on Disney+ yesterday. It is a quirky story based on a novel by Jerry Spinelli. The charmingly dreary small town feel reminded me of Disney’s The Big Green. While I haven’t seen that one for 20 years, I am aware it is also on Disney’s streaming service.
I enjoyed analysing the worldview the movie portrays. I even stopped to write down the line that I detected sums up the worldview. Later, when I watched the trailer, I learned they put the same line in the trailer. That tells me that the marketers also thought that the line was significant.
The line is “Figuring out who we are is probably the one thing no one else can do for us.” To me, this reflects the current trend in culture that we are to define ourselves, express ourselves and choose what we identify as. 20 years ago we believed we needed to “find ourselves”. Now people believe we need to choose who we are.
A description of Stargirl in the movie describes her with words that ask the question, “Who can do these wonderful things?” It crossed my mind that God can do the things she is doing. I had already noticed that she is portrayed as a saviour figure in the high school. Another story that features a saviour figure is The Chronicles of Narnia. In Narnia, the saviour is Aslan the lion (named after aslan which is the Turkish word meaning lion). However there is a big difference here. Aslan is actually a god or ruler over Narnia, whereas Stargirl’s identity is unclear. Is she magical? Is she in Leo’s (the protagonist’s) imagination? Keeping Stargirl as a mortal who is defined as a saviour figure unsettles me. It makes more sense that a god like Aslan is a saviour, rather than the girl next door.
I also noticed threads of beliefs from pop-science (“we are made from the dust of dead stars”) and eastern mysticism. One of the characters comes to such a powerful place of meditation that they change the weather around them. This again unsettled me because it shows meditation as a supernatural power, rather than a mental process that I believe it is in real life.
The movie is a lot of fun, but it’s a bit sad that these core themes focus on the wrong things. I prefer the foundational Christian worldview – of hope in Jesus- over a mixed bag of postmodern, recently created ideas. The filmmakers also use the mood of the scenes to make us sentimental about their message. I get the impression that some of us will take hold of these messages just because the movie makes us feel good. Do we just believe things that are told to us in meaningful/emotional ways?
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Image credit: Official Stargirl Twitter account (@Stargirl).
My Bible Haiku – Poetry
Recently I have written poems about the Bible at my Facebook page My Bible Haiku. Here are some of my haikus. The first one was the inspiration. The name of King Nebuchadnezzer is five syllables long!
Who burnt some Hebrews
Only to find them uncharred?
This is the love of Jesus.
It’s called ‘agape’.
Christ on a donkey.
Prophesied King of Israel…
…And King of the World.
Jesus’ close friend died.
Lazarus came back and lived.
Jesus is the life!
Lived a sinless life,
Jesus took our punishment.
Dying out of love.
Jesus rose to life
After being dead three days
Surprising his friends!
He defeated death
And allows us now to live:
His child forever.
Like My Bible Haiku on Facebook for more poems like this!