Story: The Old Testament story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, is told in a musical format, including Joseph’s betrayal by his 11 jealous brothers, who sell him into slavery. Later, Joseph’s uncanny ability to interpret dreams gains him the confidence of the Egyptian pharaoh when he tells the pharaoh what the ruler’s own troubling dreams mean in reality.
Eventually Joseph is reunited with his siblings when they travel to Egypt in search of food during a time of famine, unaware that the brother whose favored status by Jacob had fueled their envy is now the pharoah’s successful right-hand man.
Highlights: Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice were still in college when they had the idea for this fanciful tale inspired by the Book of Genesis. Later they lengthened their brief piece into a full-length musical, which has remained popular for several decades.
The current presentation by Ozark Actors Theatre is a brisk, upbeat offering that showcases the fine skills of two talented young players, Jon Andrew in the title role and Alyssa Flowers as the Narrator.
Other Info: Producing artistic director Jason Cannon, who has taken a full-time job as Associate Artist at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, makes his swan song with OAT as the director of this light-hearted romp. His cast primarily consists of a youthful brigade, which throws itself into Webber’s wide-ranging score, as Webber demonstrated at an early age his ability to compose tunes in myriad genres, including country, calypso, rock and pop, with equal flair.
Even the ‘king’ of Memphis, USA is on hand in style as the king (pharaoh) of Memphis, Egypt tunefully tells his tale of mystifying dreams to Joseph. Tim Rice’s lyrics are witty and clever as they move the story forward in amusing style.
Flowers has an appealing stage presence that, coupled with a crystalline clear voice and an engaging rapport with her youthful charges, makes for an easy, enjoyable 75 minutes, without intermission.
Andrew has a smooth style that works well with the Webber score and an easy-going presence that matches Joseph’s upbeat, amenable ways. He also plays well off of Blane Pressler’s good-humored impression of Elvis, as the ‘king’ tells his gifted slave about some strange dreams that puzzle him and cause his minions to swoon as he recalls the particulars.
Kevin Shaw’s scenic and lighting designs are simple but effective, as he has fun with a color wheel when the Narrator sings about Joseph’s multi-hued cloak, a gift from his father that pushes his brothers over the brink. Laura Light’s props provide a bounty of chuckles with corn stalks, goats and a miniature camel, while Hannah Bagnall’s choreography allows both the adults and kids in the cast to show off a variety of dances that accompany the entertaining score.
Musical director Dave Maglione and the company’s musicians generally do well handling Webber’s varied score, although too often the tunes and numbers come to an abrupt halt that seems more unfinished and awkward than a theatrical pause.
Others in the cast include Kevin Edwards as Jacob and Lesley Wallace as Jacob’s wife and also as a G-rated version of Potiphar’s sexy, adulterous wife (well, it is Rolla, and there are a lot of kids in the cast). Joseph’s brothers are played engagingly enough by Jake Mills, Benjamin Wegner, Daniel Sloan, Ian Ramsey, Rebecca Hanauer, Katie Bowra, Sam Mills, Gabi Townley, Brianna Phipps, Lisa Holmberg and Kelly Brown, all decked out in Amy Hobbs’ colorful outfits.
Although it certainly has its share of rough edges, the lively presence of Flowers and Andrew in the two major roles makes this Joseph easy on the ears and eyes.
Musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Company: Ozark Actors Theatre
Venue: Cedar Street Playhouse, 701 North Cedar, Rolla, MO
Dates: July 17, 18, 19, 20
Tickets: $12-$20; contact 573-364-9523 or email@example.com
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.