Oliver Lidert Talks ‘The Prince of Egypt’ & the Personal Impact of the Hit West End Musical

Published: Monday 20th Dec 2021 by Sam

For decades ‘The Prince of Egypt’ has enchanted the masses with its inspiring story and magnetic music.

Now, it’s wowing audiences in London’s West End with its mesmerizing live stage adaptation.

A spectacular state-of-the-art production, the show has been showered with praise from critics and theatergoers alike since its debut.

Ahead of the final curtain call on January 8 curtain call, That Grape Juice sat down with Oliver Lidert – who shines in the role of Jethro. 

During our in-depth chat, the performer opened up about the personal effect ‘The Prince of Egypt’ has had on him and its wider impact. Lidert also shared his view about what will be needed to attract more people of color to theaters – both as theatergoers and performers.

Check out our interview below…

That Grape Juice (Sam): ‘The Prince of Egypt’ is such a breathtaking production. And it breathes colorful new life into such an important story. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved in this production in the role of Jethro.

Oliver Lidert: So, I joined the production in the summer of 2019. That’s a long time ago. And we did a workshop of the piece in September, and I’d just come off of doing being the standby genie in ‘Aladdin,’ the Disney musical on the West End. I joined the cast in the Ensemble at that particular time. We began our rehearsals in December, and there was the show that was kind of set and transferred from earlier productions. But as we kind of made our way through the productions, it was adapted to us. And we developed the production altogether to what was kind of its first West End presentation.

Then, from there, the pandemic happened and our brave, tenacious producers kept the show alive throughout the entire pandemic, which was a Herculean feat. And I am so grateful to them for their kind of perseverance through all of it because it gave us a bit of an emotional lifeline as cast members, and particularly members of the Creative Arts to get through such a difficult time. And then we returned. And at that particular time, for the first iteration, Gary Wilmot was in the role of Jethro. And when we returned, Clive Rowe took over the role. And he had been booked to go and do Panto which he does for the Hackney Empire. And it was at that particular point that they approached me and asked me if I would be interested in taking over the role of Jethro, of which I was all too happy to do. I loved the song. I loved the part of Jethro. And so that’s how I ended up moving from the Ensemble to covering the role of Jethro.

That Grape Juice: We hear that this brought you closer to your own faith. Tell us a little about that?

Oliver Lidert: Well, basically, I come from a mixed-race heritage. My mother is of Jamaican descent, and my father is a Polish-Jewish descent. And I think the thing that I’ve always found fascinating is that, I connect to both sides of that. I’ve always claimed both sides of my heritage. However, in performing arts, it can be very skin deep. And so, I’ve always dealt with the baggage and the politics that go along with being perceived as a black man. The Prince of Egypt has given me this opportunity to also really explore that part of myself which is Jewish, and to have a platform to be able to say to people, this is a very important part of who I am, and my kind of being. And so, in taking the role of Jethro, I wanted to immediately put in the program that I dedicated the performance to my grandparents who survived World War II as Polish Jews, and they have managed to escape and survive the war in Georgia and the Soviet Union. And so, my perception of Judaism has never really been through the lens of religion. It’s been through the lens of tradition and ethnicity. So that’s how I’ve always really connected to it.

So, I did grow up going to Passovers, I did grow up, with Hanukkah traditions and celebrating Rosh Hashanah. But I think that the show really just gave me an opportunity to go a little deeper. And to also kind of explain to the rest of the world, this is who I am. There is more [to me] than just a black man with an American accent.

That Grape Juice: What would you say are the biggest differences between ‘The Prince of Egypt,’ the film, and ‘The Prince of Egypt,’ the production, of course, outside of the animation aspect?

Oliver Lidert: I think that live theater really gives you the opportunity to get a different range of emotions, that how you’re led through the story, when you actually get to experience the actor performing it in front of you really gives you that extra layer. I think that the – because I grew up as well on the DreamWorks film, and it is extraordinary. But I think that this is just, it’s a different way of perceiving the story.

So, while the original is a template, in a way, the live experience gives you an entirely different way of connecting with the characters. Obviously, that there are certain things that we can’t do in terms of scale that film can do. But what we do is, we build the show physically. And I think that the intensity of our production versus the intensity of the film is actually greater. Because you see people going through this, you see the pain, you see the agony, you hear them singing live, and you’re presented with that grit. And it’s one of the beauties of live theater that I think the emotional journey of the stage production is far more complex and rich in many senses.

That Grape Juice: What would you say is your favorite song to perform in the production?

Oliver Lidert: I’m totally biased naturally. But I’ll be honest. Even from when the DreamWorks film came out, the two standout songs to me were ‘When You Believe,’ and ‘Through Heaven’s Eyes.’ And the reason ‘Through Heaven’s Eyes’ was always such a brilliant song for me is, besides the beats, besides the uptempo nature of the song, and the warmth of the performance is that Brian Stokes Mitchell, who’s one of my absolute idols sang it in its original context, and his voice to me, is one that I always aspired to.

I will say with that, ‘Through Heaven’s Eyes’ has definitely been my favorite. As far as an emotional journey, ‘When You Believe’ certainly delivered, and I feel that every time that I sing that song, you feel it kind of in your gut. There’s something very deeply moving by that song that connects to all of us. So those are the two songs for me that really do stand out.

That Grape Juice: What would you like to see happen to help magnetize more people of color to such theater productions in the UK or more broadly?

Oliver Lidert: There is a very simple solution to this. I’m a creative in my own right, and I write pieces with my partner Kurt Kansley. We are both men of color, who are trying to write and create new musical theater. And to me that the only solution is to change the people who are writing the stories. If you have diversity built into productions, from the beginning, there is no way that the end product will not be reflective of that. And so, at the moment, there is a conversation that exists in which it never has existed before. However, the structures that exist to support those types of creatives do not exist and still persist to be predominantly dominated by, forgive me for saying, but white men.

Our production certainly goes above and beyond to make the point of the visual nature of the cast, as well as our creatives. Sean Cheeseman, whose choreography is epic and beautiful. But if we really, really want to see the change that I think we’re all hoping for, it must be that writers, it must be the producers. And it must be the investors who come from those diverse backgrounds. And then once we reach that point, we will be able to stop talking about how we need to change the industry because at that point, the industry will be reflective of who we are as a global community.

That Grape Juice: Tell us a little bit about your production outfit that you said that you’re working on with your creative partner?

Oliver Lidert: So, my writing partner’s name is Kurt Kansley. And he is actually originally from South Africa. He moved from South Africa when he was five to Australia. And the two of us met in ‘The Lion King.’ And we started writing musicals together. And we are now currently on our  fifth musical. We are part of Mercury Musical Developments here in the UK. We’ve had our productions at colleges in Australia, as well as our work performed here in the UK at places like The Other Palace. And we’re working hard to just start to change that narrative.

All of our productions are new stories. All of our productions have diverse casts. And we were always looking at telling stories that deal with characters that don’t necessarily have their stories told. So yeah, we’ve been running for about seven years. And hopefully, in the next few years, we get some more traction. We have workshops coming up. And we have been Arts Council funded for a workshop coming up in the near future.

That Grape Juice: If you had to give three reasons as to why people need to see ‘The Prince of Egypt,’ what would they be?

Oliver Lidert: The first reason is, I think it’s entertaining. I think that’s always important and not to be underestimated that theater in its essence should be interesting and entertaining doesn’t mean trivial. Entertaining means that you’re able to go out, have a good time, and get a great story. So, I think that’s first and foremost, come you’ll have a great night.

Second is, theater is a teaching tool. I think that we learn about ourselves through theatre. And I think that you will get a story of humanity. You will see yourself reflected in the difficulties and adversities and I think that you will leave the theater having felt as though you were taken on a journey, and you will learn about yourself through it.

And last, I would say is basically because it’s beautiful. I think that the music that the stagecraft itself is beautifully stunning and is a joy to watch from beginning to end whether you’re a theatergoer or not.


‘The Prince of Egypt’ runs until 8 January 2022 at the Dominion Theatre and tickets are available at ThePrinceOfEgyptMusical.com

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