Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Tim Rice. Directed by Chad Matchette. An Align Entertainment production. At the Michael J. Fox Theatre on Saturday, November 5. Continues until November 19
Align Entertainment’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is the perfect treat for musical-theatre fans in the mood for some zany fun. The show is a loose retelling of the biblical tale of Joseph from the Book of Genesis, set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and with lyrics by Tim Rice.
While the biblical story is dark, dealing with topics such as slavery and famine, the musical’s parodic attitude allows the show to keep things light-hearted. Think of Joseph as a G-rated sibling to Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. There’s also an amusing variety of music genres in the score, which includes the pelvis-thrusting, Elvis-inspired “Pharaoh’s Dream Explained” and the Caribbean-flavoured “Benjamin Calypso” number.
Director Chad Matchette has packed this show with clever wit, which makes for a fresh take on a well-known classic. For example, the premise for this production is a school field trip to the Museum of Natural History where the story comes alive as the students’ teacher (Katie-Rose Connors) tells the children the tale of Joseph. Matchette has added some quirky elements, such as a selfie stick, scooters, the use of stuffed animals to portray real animals, and even a cameo appearance by Ariel the Mermaid to promote Align Entertainment’s upcoming production of The Little Mermaid.
From the high-energy, western-themed piece “One More Angel in Heaven” to the roaring beach party “Go, Go, Go Joseph”, Melissa Turpin’s choreography adapts to the musical style of each song, and allows the cast, many of whom are trained dancers, to showcase their skills. The boot-stomping “One More Angel in Heaven” makes you feel like you’re at a hoedown in a barn, as the dancers let loose and fly about the stage. The “Those Canaan Days” sees Bronwyn Williams perform a sultry tango with Joseph’s brothers that is equal parts athletic prowl and balletic grace.
Stuart Barkley possesses a strong musical-theatre tenor that’s well-suited to the vocally demanding role of Joseph. His cheerful, carefree, and slightly self-centred demeanor near the start of the show in “Joseph’s Coat” contrasts dramatically with the vulnerability and heartache he expresses in “Close Every Door”. As he fights for his freedom, you can see his determination hidden under deliberate charm in “Pharaoh’s Dream Explained”, and his character’s newfound maturity and confidence radiates in the closing “Any Dream Will Do”.
Connors is outstanding as the show’s narrator. Her role isn’t easy: the narrator has the most lines and it’s important for the audience to hear and understand all her lyrics in order for the story to make sense. Connors makes all of this look effortless and her character’s enthusiasm is infectious, as she often jumps into choreography with the ensemble, looking like she’s having a ball.
This production of Joseph is also a great vehicle for some very talented local musical-theatre artists, including a number of young up-and-comers who get to showcase their talents in a large-scale professional-level production. Their performances, along with the production qualities of this show, shine as bright as Joseph’s multicoloured coat.