Tuesday, 27 September 2016

YOU SEND ME: Well-made and visually stunning, Moses takes you on an epic journey

GIVE US FREE: A dazzling look, a crisp sound and a powerful story are the show's assets.

For those of you who are yet to see Father HoLung & Friends’ visually stunning and delightfully rhythmic revival of their hit musical Moses, you’ll be awed by the Golden Calf scene and the song-and-dance number that accompanies it. It’ an unforgettable mélange of revelry and rebellion that lands at the heart of what the show is about.

But it’s the parting of the Red Sea that elicits thunderous applause that echoes throughout the National Arena, as special effects, gorgeous lighting and utter resourcefulness combine to create a feast for the senses. Technical Director/Lighting Designer Robin Baston deserves all the major awards coming his way. The contributions of set designer PJ Stewart – towering structures that rotate to alternate as palatial columns and mountains of the great outdoors – reek of innovative cunning.

That said, Moses is a triumph, and we are very impressed with how it stakes its claim as an Old Testament-inspired musical drama heavily infused with Jamaican culture (the dancehall especially) and other contemporary elements that give it a modern sheen.

It’s the age-old story we all know: how the boy-wonder drawn from the water leaves behind his Egyptian heritage to liberate God’s people from Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule. But here it’s elevated into something fresh and vibrant, thanks to Father HoLung’s creative genius and the efforts of the hardworking supporting team – chief among them, director Greg Thames, who weaves it all together into a tight two-and-a-half-hour package.

Working with a large and committed group of talented actors of all ages, he makes you feel, in particular, the pain of the oppressed Israelites – enslaved men, women and children who cry out to God in song. That’s where Moses comes in, emerging as a now fully grown man torn between two identities (Egyptian and Israelite). But he eventually finds his purpose as God’s champion against the hard-hearted Pharaoh (Hugh Douse, compelling) and the Osiris-worshipping Ramses (Leighton Jones, utterly convincing).

Moses is robustly played by Wynton Williams (also the show’s Musical Director), who has the commanding stage presence, charismatic appeal, and powerful singing voice to get us to follow him on this long journey.

And what an eventful journey it is (the plagues, the burning bush, the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, the Ten Commandments), one that culminates with the Israelites basking in their newfound freedom as they head into the Promised Land.

Our only complaint about the show is that it deserves a much stronger finish. It’s not the bring-them-to-their-feet climax we were anticipating, given the heft of the lead-up events.

The final moments are a bit of a letdown, yes, but thankfully they take nothing away from the enormous pleasures that the overall journey provides – from the bombastic musical numbers (the dancehall-spiked “Shame On Me”, “the kaleidoscopic “I Am Who I Am”) to the vivid exploration of a born leader’s internal struggles and the forces he has to vanquish to do the work of the one who sent him. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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