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REVIEW: "JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT—Rose Center Theater

“Don't give up Joseph, fight till you drop. We've read the book and you come out on top!”


FEBRUARY 19, 2024—WESTMINSTER


The most interesting fable at work in the flashy, eclectic Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," now playing at Rose Center Theater, isn't just the familiar biblical tale from which the musical takes its plot. It is also a show-biz succession of witty, deliberately outrageous musical non sequiturs and musical genres. Yet, for all its anachronistic spoofing, the musical doesn't obscure the story's theme of betrayal and forgiveness, making this Old Testament tale emerge both timely and timeless.


"Joseph" began life in 1972, when Rice and Webber were in their early twenties, as an intimate 20-minute cantata for an English boys' school choir. In short order, it was revised and expanded, and turned into an unpretentious, inexpensively mounted musical that relied mostly on its infectious melodies and enthusiastic casts. Only a decade later, after many incarnations, it managed to find its way to the big Broadway stage.


But intimate is not a word that springs to mind in connection with the current version, staged by Orange County’s esteemed director Tim Nelson. Now, several major revivals and national tours later, not to mention a 1999 film which starred Donny Osmond, it’s a bouncy, bubbly, well-oiled machine, as slick and spectacular as any Las Vegas revue or elaborate theme ride at Disney World.



The story of Joseph's rise from his father Jacob's favorite son to Pharaoh's chancellor is rendered in about 20 musical numbers with the essential transitions usually provided by a narrator (three narrators in this case). Joseph's ability to interpret dreams is both the reason his jealous brothers sell him to some traveling Ishmaelites and the gift that gets him in good with Pharaoh.


There is a gymnastic corps of singers and dancers who wear a bevy of cross-cultural costumes to correspond to the many pastiche musical numbers in the show. These include a twangy, cowboyish elegy (“One More Angel in Heaven”) to Joseph, after his scheming brothers sell him into slavery, that shifts into a big hoedown dance sequence; a funny, Jacques Brel-like ode to better times called "Those Canaan Days;" an upbeat Calypso number; and a rock-and-roll recounting of Pharaoh's dream, riotously depicted by an Elvis Presley-style Pharaoh. And, get ready for “Go Go Go Joseph,” performed in the style of 60's bubble-gum pop, in an irresistible, dance-riveting, psychedelically lit disco number that concludes the show's first act.


Choreographed by the skillful team of Jennifer Simpson-Matthews and Diane Makas, and featuring the antiseptically young rising star and excellent baritenor, Mikey Smith as Joseph in an easy, wide-eyed presence, Mr. Smith is aided by three powerful soprano Narrators (Kristin Caputo, Selena Ceja and Colette Peters—all with beautiful, lilting voices and commanding presence). The role of Jacob is performed by a wonderful Patrick O’Connor, the doting patriarch whose gift to Joseph of that technicolor coat jump-starts the rise of enmity between the apple-polisher and his brothers.


Joseph’s siblings (his hammy, boy-band brothers, whose offspring becomes the twelve tribes of Israel) and co-stars include Edward Bangasser as Reuben, the oldest; Ray Tezanos as Simeon; Spencer Sharp as Levi; Brett Popiel as Asher; Kole Yoshi as Dan; Josh Martinez as Zebulon; Nathan Andreas as Gad; Sean Ower as Judah; Zachary Colby as Isacaar (usually spelled Issachar, Mr. Colby also plays the fateful Baker); Aaron Adrian as Naphtali (also doubling as the lucky Butler); and Taven Blanke as the youngest, Benjamin (“Benjamin’s Calyso”).


There’s more. There’s the brothers’ wives: Sofia Aniceto, Laura Pasarow Bangassar, Baily Curtis, Catherine Dosier, Gaby Garcia, Ava Melgoza, Mary O’Reilly, Kellie Petrosian, Tessa Rawlinson, Avalon Rose, and Avi Walton. All of these contributed greatly to the numbers, dancing and scenes in the show.


Other familiar characters in the show are Potiphar (played by hilarious stage veteran Randall Goddard), the captain of Pharoah’s guard. A powerful and rich Egyptian, Potiphar purchases Joseph from his brōs and puts him to work in his household, where he soon realizes that Joseph is honest, hard-working, and a great addition to his pool of help. When he grows suspicious of a tryst between his beautifully scheming wife and his new bond servant, however, he throws Joseph in prison (“Close Every Door”).


Through a lucky break that springs Joe from the big house due to his hobby as a dream clairvoyant, he lands in front of the Pharoah and reveals the meaning of his dreams—all good. And, just like that, he finds himself Number Two in charge of all Egypt. One of the most anticipated scenes in the show, this is where an incredible 4th-wall breaking performance by Vincent Aniceto skillfully rocks the role of Pharaoh as the hip-swiveling King of Vegas (“Song of the King”), complete with iconic white jumpsuit, deep sideburns, silky red hankies, and his signature riffs and vibrato that brings the house down.


Eventually (the good book says 20 years), and ironically, his poverty-stricken brothers who were suffering greatly goes to Egypt to look for food and find themselves secretly groveling at the feet of their prince brother who they betrayed and had assumed dead. Be that as it may, after testing their integrity, Joseph finally reveals himself, leading to a heartfelt reconciliation and homecoming.


"Joseph” really comes alive in its last 10 minutes, when the entire ensemble appears to recap, once again, the show's big numbers. Suddenly, Jennifer Simpson-Matthew and Diane Makas’ choreography takes on a new vitality and precision with the songs brimming anew in infectious melodiousness.


In fact, on a musical level, "Joseph" still offers a crystal-clear blueprint of Mr. Lloyd Webber's insidiously addictive style – one reason “Any Dream Will Do” became the Broadway Song of the Year in 1981. With its easy-to-follow, bouncy rhythms and airy melodies, the score evokes not only the pop standards Mr. Lloyd Webber is parodying, but also many of the motifs he has incorporated into his later works. It’s music that burrows into the memory like an earwig. So be warned: Long after the visual spectacle of this production has faded from recollection, you'll probably still be living with fragments of its score.


I would suggest that you don't miss this dazzling and vibrant production, playing February 16 - March 3, 2024. Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 PM: February 16-17, 23-24, and March 1-2; Sundays at 2:00 PM: February 18, 25, and March 3. Go Go Go get your tickets today for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before it goes away.


WITH:

Mikey Smith; Narrators: Kristin Caputo, Selena Ceja, and Colette Peters; Edward Bangasser (Reuben); Ray Tezanos (Simeon); Spencer Sharp (Levi); Aaron Adrian (Naphtali); Zachary Colby (Isacaar); Brett Popiel (Asher); Kole Yoshi (Dan); Avi Spitzer (Zebulon); Nathan Andreas (Gad); Sean Ower (Judah); Taven Blanke (Benjamin); Patrick O'Connor (Jacob); Randall Goddard (Potiphar); Vincent Aniceto (Pharaoh). The Brother’s Wives: Sofia Aniceto, Bailey Curtis, Catherine Dosier, Gabby Garcia, Ava Melgoza, Mary O'Reilly, Laura Pasarow Bangasser, Kellie Petrosian, Tessa Rawlinson, Avalon Rose, and Avi Walton.


ENSEMBLE

Cherie Aniceto, Sandra Aniceto, Mason Creyaufmiller, Macaila Dorney, Karen Elder Dohm, Collin Higgins, David Hubbard, Matt Kim, Josh Martinez, Thai Nguyen, Linsey Schrek, David Schroeder, Sheri Vasquez, Meredith Woodson, Elle Bangle, Aiden Burgos, Chloe Allysa Hanser, Payton Mariano, Amiah Robinette, Kiara Sims, and Cameron Wynn.


CHILDREN’S CHORUS

Lori Babek, Harper Balfany, Allan Bangassser, Shiloh Baylon, Lola Buckland, Leyna Camba, Alex Camba, Harper Casteo, Marigold Canillo, Sierra Chavez, James dela Cruz, Avalon Doherty, Kaitlyn Dominguez, Ardyanna Ducusin, Cody Elder-Dohm, Orinoco Foxlin, Jimmy Gutierrez, Donovan Monroe, Stella Murphy, Luke Nelson, Julia Ner, Marc Ner, Kathryn Peters, Jailyn Sandoval, Katie Sanford, Gregory Sanford, Analeigh Singhi, Bailey Tangney, Seraphine Tran, Sawyer Votaw, and Hadley Wingate.


Music by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER Lyrics by TIM RICE; Director & Musical Director TIM NELSON; Choreographers JENNIFER MATTHEWS & DIANE MAKAS; Technical Director CHRIS CAPUTO; Costume Designer CAROLE ZELINGER; Wigs by CLIFF SENIOR; Props by SHERRÈ TITUS.

CHRIS DANIELS

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT REVIEWER

THE SHOW REPORT

 

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