Story: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were just young lads in school when they first worked on this collaboration, a musical version of the tale from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament about Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob.
The musical recounts Jacob’s partiality to Joseph, which leads to jealousy by his brothers and their subsequent decision to sell him into slavery. Eventually, Joseph ends up in Egypt, where his ability to interpret dreams brings him to the attention of the pharaoh, seeking advice about his own baffling visions.
Rewarded for his efforts, Joseph becomes the pharaoh’s right-hand man, eventually coming into contact again with his brothers, who have gone to Egypt during a famine in search of food. After testing them about their contrition, Joseph is reunited with his siblings.
Highlights: First performed in its original incarnation in 1968, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat subsequently has been produced by more than 20,000 schools and community theaters. That’s a testament to the show’s musical versatility, high ‘likability quotient’ and upbeat tempo.
The current touring production at The Fox features a pair of former American Idol contestants, Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, in leading roles in an updated, breezy, dazzling new version directed and choreographed in rousing style by Andy Blankenbuehler.
Other Info: DeGarmo and Young display the chemistry that attracted the wife and husband duo to each other when they met several years ago in the cast of a Broadway revival of Hair. DeGarmo brings energy and charm to the role of the Narrator while Young portrays the title character with his own easy-going style.
While neither one possesses a memorable voice, they nonetheless capture the exuberance and versatility of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, in an impressive number of musical motifs, and the clever talents of lyricist Tim Rice as evidenced by his youthful and witty way with words.
The real singing stars, though, are among the supporting players. The two stand-out numbers in this particular version (which is not always the case) are One More Angel in Heaven in Act I and Act II’s Those Canaan Days.
The former is led in deliciously droll fashion by Brian Golub as brother Reuben, who leads his siblings in a faux display of grief when relaying to Jacob (William Thomas Evans) that Joseph has gone on to his reward. As soon as their bereaved father leaves the stage, the boys and their wives whoop it up in grand, hoedown fashion to Webber’s country-tinged tune, greatly aided by Blankenbuehler’s spirited choreography.
Likewise, Paul Castree displays a deft comic touch as brother Simeon recounts the family’s woes when times get tough. Again, the youthful Lloyd Webber flexes his musical muscles with a different genre, this time a French cabaret approach that works particularly well in this new version.
Other musical highlights are Will Mann’s deep-voiced, engaging version of the aptly-titled Benjamin Calypso, Ryan Williams doing his best version of ‘The King of Memphis’ (Pharoah in Memphis, Egypt and Elvis in Memphis, Tenn.) to a rock ‘n’ roll beat on Song of the King and DeGarmo and Young rattling off the sundry hues in Joseph’s “coat of many colors” while warbling Joseph’s Coat.
An impressive element in this version is the clever use of video and projection designs by Daniel Brodie that accentuates various elements of the story, such as a map delineating Joseph’s journey into slavery. Another plus is the striking lighting designed by Howell Binkley, which explodes across and above the stage at arresting moments.
Beowulf Boritt contributes the fanciful, cartoon-inspired set design, Jennifer Caprio dresses the cast (except the Narrator) in era-appropriate attire and David Kreppel supervises the lively orchestra, which is directed by Wayne Green.
It’s probably better served as a one-act musical, given the slender thread of the two-hour running time (including a lengthy intermission), but regardless Joseph continues to entertain. After more than 40 years, the music and mood of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat remain infectious and ingratiating.
Musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Company: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Blvd.
Dates: Through May 11
Tickets: $25-$66; contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Swalec