Right now, Schwartz is working on the film-to-theatre transformation of The Prince of Egypt (originally the 1998 DreamWorks animated feature for which Schwartz penned the music and lyrics) while in the midst of translating his musical Wicked into a film set to be released in 2019.
“In both instances you’re dealing with adaptation of something that exists in one form,” he says of crossing over from film to theatre and from theatre to film, “but the media are very different and have different requirements and different strengths and different weaknesses. There are things that you can do in film that you cannot do onstage, things you can do onstage that don’t work in film, so obviously that has to be kept in mind.”
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The Prince of Egypt is based on the Book of Exodus and follows the story of Moses and his brother, the Pharaoh Ramses. TheatreWorks, the company in California where the new musical will premiere in October, describes it as “a soaring celebration of the human spirit.” With the story’s transition to the stage, Schwartz hopes to bring a new level of reality and depth to previously animated characters. “Animation is a much shorter form, and the stories are pretty simply told,” he says. “And you can try and get some nuance, of course, and some depth, but you paint with a pretty broad brush. So simply having more time to develop the story and the relationships, more songs, two acts, et cetera, really gives one a chance to get inside the stories and the characters a bit more.”
As far as what to expect from the adaptation, Schwartz says to look for “more of the relationship” between Moses and Ramses. “The movie is basically a brother story, but it deals a lot with the Bible story. The show gives us a chance to explore that brother relationship and its many different rises and falls more.
“Jokingly,” he adds, “I say it’s Wicked with boys.”