Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Tim Rice. Directed by Shel Piercy. Musical direction by Kevin Michael Cripps. A Theatre Under the Stars production at Malkin Bowl on Wednesday, August 4. Continues until August 20
Psychedelic. This production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fizzes with youthful energy by reaching back into the groovy past, man.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1982 musical has been done a lot, but director Shel Piercy delivers on his promise to make it fresh. He sets the play in 1967 in an abandoned theatre, where a group of kids have been rehearsing a play about Joseph and his coat. Enter a bunch of hippies who conjure Joseph out of a trunk, and then join the children in acting out the story of how Joseph’s visionary dreams lead to his betrayal by his brothers and eventual rise to power in Egypt.
The summer-of-love references drip off this production like fringe off a suede vest. They’re in the costumes (lots of tie-dye and headbands), in the characters’ names (like Che and Starshine), and in Tim Matheson’s witty and evocative projections. Joseph’s coat of many colours boasts a peace sign and a Rolling Stones lips-and-tongue logo, and the Sgt. Pepper boys even make a brief appearance just before intermission. Piercy’s interpretation infuses the show with a sense of innocence and freedom that’s a perfect container for the performers’ exuberance.
Piercy also has a field day mixing up the casting: Joseph’s elderly father, Jacob, is played by nine-year-old Meghna Lohia, sporting a little pink dress and a huge white beard; and Amber Shikaze has a star turn playing the Pharaoh as an electric Tina Turner. Other standouts in this uniformly terrific cast are Benjamin Wardle, with his cool and slick Potiphar, and Aaron Lau, whose vigorous physicality anchors both “Those Canaan Days” (played as a French circus act) and the infectiously festive “Benjamin Calypso”. And as Joseph, Erik Ioannidis is a winning hero. With his shaggy hair, sweet voice, and easy charm, he seems to have stepped straight out of the ’60s.
Musical director Kevin Michael Cripps leads a tight, note-perfect orchestra, and the young cast ably handles Lloyd Webber’s diverse musical styles and Keri Minty’s athletic choreography, ranging from the barn-dance hoedown of “One More Angel in Heaven” to the conga line in “Benjamin Calypso”. There are nearly 30 people on-stage, many not yet in their teens, and when they all sing together, the effect is buoyant enough to lift you out of your seat.