Lyrics by Tim Rice. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Barbara Tomasic. A Gateway Theatre production. At Gateway Theatre on Saturday, December 14. Continues until December 31
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is an extremely challenging musical to do because of the show’s scale. And unfortunately, Joseph is perhaps too large for Gateway Theatre to handle. While this production is a wonderful opportunity for young local talent to shine, its limitations take some of the gleam off.
Joseph is one of the early musicals from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s collaboration. The show is a fun, comedic pop-rock opera that tells the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. In the story, Joseph’s brothers are constantly annoyed by their father’s favouritism towards Joseph, as well as Joseph’s attitude. Not that Joseph has ill intentions. He’s a dreamer—but because of this, he’s often in his own world, which makes him come across as self-absorbed.
The last straw for Joseph’s brothers is when their father, Jacob, presents Joseph with an exorbitant “coat of many colours”. The brothers sell Joseph into slavery, and thus a wild journey begins for him. It’s inspiring, and filled with hilarious parodies of various music styles, including country and calypso, and even a tribute to Elvis.
Under the direction of Barbara Tomasic, this production reveals that Joseph isn’t the kind of show you can do well on a small budget. In what appears to be an effort to minimize the size of the cast, Chelsea Rose plays not only the Narrator but also Jacob and Mrs. Potiphar, the wife of Joseph’s first slave master. Whenever Rose is playing Jacob, she holds up a fake mustache on a stick. Aside from looking amateurish, it doesn’t allow us to feel an emotional connection between Joseph and his father.
If you’re going to cut corners with Joseph, the one you really can’t cut is with the amazing technicolour dreamcoat referred to in the show’s title. After all, the extravagance of Joseph’s coat is what pushes the brothers over the edge. But this production’s dreamcoat is a lacklustre bomber jacket with a few patches of colour attached to it. Even if all the colours mentioned in the show’s lyrics (“lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve”) are on this coat, these hues are not vibrant enough to be visible to most of the audience.
On the other side of the coin, the costumes in the Potiphar scene are a treat. Potiphar wears a fabulous, Elton John–inspired gold top hat and coat, and his subjects wear glittery black cocktail dresses reminiscent of “The Rich Man’s Frug” in Sweet Charity. And as Pharaoh, Madeleine Suddaby wears sparkling Fluevog heels.
As Joseph, Oliver Castillo is a strong singer and delivers the show’s famous tunes, “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do”, well. The standout moment of the show is Suddaby’s rousing performance of “Song of the King”, in which she all but blows the roof off with her sensational voice. And the ensemble is a delight to watch in “Those Canaan Days”, with their parody of French accents and gestures.
But the powerful cast isn’t enough to overcome the lack of so much else on-stage. During a long musical interlude in “Close Every Door”, there’s so little to look at on-stage that we’re left awkwardly watching Joseph as he cries while waiting to sing again. And during the jail scene, the other prisoners—the Butler and Baker—are able to mysteriously and effortlessly flee the cell. Even Nicol Spinola’s choreography lacks creative spark.
Gateway Theatre’s production of Joseph will likely be enjoyed by friends and family of the young cast. But it lacks that pro polish.