THE TEN COMMANDMENTS | A musical by PATRICK LEONARD and MARIBETH DERRY Presented by BCBGMAXAZRIA ENTERTAINMENT at the KODAK THEATER, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood | In previews, opens Mon., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; through Oct. 31. Call (213) 480-3232.
Val Kilmer couldn’t even begin to compare his role as Tom “Iceman” Kazanski in 1986’s Top Gun to his latest role. The man who also put on the Batman suit in Batman Forever is playing a role that he says is closer to who he is as a human being — not exactly, he says, but close.
“How can anyone — even an actor — display the humility, the strength, the honesty, the person, the dignity that Moses represents?” Kilmer said. “I mean, how can you display that? These are qualities that everyone appreciates in a human being, but you can’t really act them out.”
Kilmer recently signed on to portray Moses in Max Azria and Charles Cohen’s new stage musical, The Ten Commandments, which opens Sept. 27 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
The role is not new to Kilmer. He previously took on the role — vocally, anyway — in the animated The Prince of Egypt. Nor is the religious aspect of the role new to him. As an actor, Kilmer is described as serious. As a person, he is to the point and unpretentious considering he was the one to bring the story of Jim Morrison to the silver screen.
Kilmer, as some of the cast members describe, also happens to be one of the silliest people they’ve ever met. He can also throw some mean parties — a few of the cast members said about him when asked to describe the show’s main character.
During a recent interview, Kilmer seemed peaceful. He was indeed very matter-of-fact, but nowhere near silly. While putting on some sandals, Kilmer sat comfortably in his chair behind a desk, relaxed and at ease. Knowing he only had a few minutes before he would be pulled back into rehearsal, he didn’t seem rushed as he finished up his breakfast of four hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with salt.
Yes, playing Moses feels very comfortable to him, especially since in the last few years, he’s continued a pact to read the Bible in church every Sunday.
“I am a religious person,” he said. “I do pray for specific needs. I do read the Bible every Sunday. I’ve read the Bible all of my life. I also pray for things that are going on in the world; it has given me a deeper sense of responsibility as a person. So to represent the person who defined, who wrote this moral code that we live by, it has given me a deeper sense of selflessness.”
When he first heard about the show, Kilmer was told that the producers didn’t want the show to have a star, only an ensemble. Then Kilmer’s name came up.
“I have to say that this is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Kilmer says about agreeing to play Moses again. “I know it’s been a while since I did the animated version, but to be able to come to work, to play this role and to be surrounded by a cast who’s as passionate about the story as I am, it’s been great. I love coming to work every day. The cast is so beautiful and fun. They are fun people and positive people to be around. I love being around people who love what they are doing because I’m the same way.”
Though being called an opera musical with a modern twist, this version of The Ten Commandments still tells the 3,300-year-old story of Moses’ exodus from Egypt and his journey towards happiness, life and rebirth.
One of the most significant stories of all time, Kilmer says that he wasn’t sure what to expect upon meeting his cast. To his surprise, producers have made sure that the cast is as accurately represented as they could have possibly made it to be considering the homogeneity of 1956 movie version, which starred Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.
“It did surprise me,” he says. “When I walked into the room [the first time he was to meet the cast] my eyes lit up, because this was my community. I didn’t see that in the movie. Just walking in there and seeing everybody, the first thought that came into my mind was that this was the right way to tell the story. It redefines the story we know as Moses. It’s closer to the Bible version.”
The show itself is not as antiquated. It’s more modern and fused with bits of hip-hop and ballet dance structures.
Choreographer Travis Payne admitted that in addition to reading the story over and over, he has also watched the Heston movie repeatedly in the last couple of weeks — not to emulate it, but to get a deeper sense of how he can transform the story into a theatrical piece.
“I had to make sure that I brought the story to the scale of the stage,” Payne said. “So, because the story is not a musical in the Bible, it’s been interesting to achieve — a bit intimidating at first, but achievable.”
The challenge for the show, Payne said, was to find a “vocabulary of movement.”
“I wanted something that definitely borrow from the old, from that time, the authenticity, and the new at the same time,” he said. “I wanted this show to have something to call its own. At first it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. We did lots of research and read a lot of books on hieroglyphics to understand the region and the era to make sure this was something that both people who are incredibly religious and those who are simply spiritual feel that this show is coming from a place of truth from every aspect.”
Known for his work with artists like Madonna, Usher and Michael Jackson, Payne said that he needed to make sure he could instill in the choreography a fresh spin — so as to move the young and old.
Even though Kilmer says he’s a good dancer, in Commandments, he doesn’t have to dance.
“It’s not who Moses is,” Payne said. “We made sure we created some movements that were fitting to Moses. So, no, there aren’t any kicks and jumps or anything like that. He’s Moses.”
The Old Testament superstar looks remarkably like Val Kilmer
Kilmer plays Moses in The Ten Commandments
Val Kilmer's Official Website
Val Kilmer's Bio
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