The international phenomenon Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat serves as a terrific vehicle for a talented young cast and an equally terrific showcase for director Jeff Lowe, choreographer Jenny Moon Shaw, and musical director Sarah Weinzetl at the Covina Center For The Performing Arts.
From its original 1969 concept album to the present day, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice collaboration has continued to provide one hundred minutes of pure, unadulterated, Technicolor music and fun whether professionally produced, or in the case of CCPA, as top-of-the-line community theater.
A kids-friendly adaptation of the Genesis tale of Jacob’s son Joseph and his “coat of many colors,” Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat offers audiences of any religious (or non-religious) persuasion the most delectably eclectic blend of pop music genres and eras of the now Sir Andrew’s half-century-long career.
CCPA’s holiday season revival of the 1982 Broadway smash has Lowe’s direction, Shaw’s choreography, and Weinzetl’s musical direction blending so seamlessly, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the next begins.
Brandon Sanchez stars as Joseph, whose multicolored coat, a gift from his father Jacob, so enrages his eleven jealous brothers that they sell him into slavery in Egypt. Once there, his ability to interpret dreams makes him second-in-command to Pharaoh. When famine strikes the land, Joseph’s starving brothers head off towards Egypt in search of food where who should they meet but …. You guessed it, that is if you don’t already know the story from Sunday School.
Lowe has staged Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as a magical bedtime story, recounted to a quintet of onstage children by the show’s Narrator (Candice Rochelle Berge) and her fellow Story Tellers (Allison J. Parker and Michelle Tymich) with hardly a line of spoken dialog from start to finish.
Sung-through musicals require first and foremost a cast who can sing, and since Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is about as sung-through as a musical can get, it’s a pleasure to report that regardless of their “amateur” status, CCPA’s cast of thirty provide the vocal goods … and then some, beginning with the production’s two sensational stars.
Whether sung country or legit or pop, the Narrator’s “Jacob And Sons,” “Poor, Poor Joseph,” and other assorted Lloyd Webber tunes offer a performer (usually female) quite a vocal showcase. Incandescent narrator Berge opts for a blend of the latter two music genres, and gorgeously so, especially as backed up by the luminous duo of Parker and Tymich.
Opposite Berge, a stellar Sanchez is not only a charismatic stage presence as the often bare-torsoed Joseph, his tenor soars quite gloriously, and not just in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s most dramatic number “Close Every Door,” which the Featured Actor Scenie winner sings to powerful effect.
Community theater musicals tend to attract younger-than-usual auditioners, which can lend some productions a less-than-professional air when teens and early-20somethings are asked to play characters twice or more their age, and CCPA’s Joseph ensemble members are indeed for the most part a decade or so younger than you’d find in a professional staging—a fact that in the case of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s band of twelve young brothers and half-dozen handmaidens ends up to the production’s advantage.
Lloyd Webber and Rice use the Joseph story as a springboard for a veritable rainbow of musical genres, a dazzling variety of styles which give showcase moments to many members of CCPA’s talented cast.
“One More Angel In Heaven” has eldest bro Reuben (Joey Nestra) twanging in his best country-cowboy mode. In the vaudeville-flavored “Potiphar,” Potiphar (Osbaldo Alvardo, who also plays Jacob) amusingly channels crooners of days gone by. “Go, Go, Go Joseph” features the Pharaoh’s Baker (Matt JM Candela) and Butler (Mark Gamez) and the rest of the cast in disco-era moves that would do Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero proud.
“Song Of The King (Seven Fat Cows)” introduces a Vegas Elvis-coiffed Pharaoh (a hip-swiveling, scene-stealing Eric Cajiuat) about as all-shook-up as they come. The plaintive “Those Canaan Days,” features Simeon (Curtis J. Parker) chansonnier français mode. And you can guess which musical genre gets spoofed by Judah (Jacque Lamont Herman) in “Benjamin Calypso.”
Not only are all of the above musical numbers sung to perfection, each and every one of them features Shaw’s exuberant, imaginative, high-energy genre-crossing choreography, and if some in the cast came in as mere “movers,” you’d hardly guess they weren’t dancers from the start. (Shaw gets bonus points for figuring out more ways to use staffs and spears than I could possibly count.)
Director Lowe provides multiple original touches as well, and never more so than in “Those Canaan Days,” which has each of Joseph’s eleven brothers showing off talents ranging from mime to ventriloquism to juggling … and many more.
Brothers/Egyptians Mason Banks, Candela, Christopher Curry, Emerson Dauwalder, Gamez, Greg Hardash, Herman, Steven Murray, Nestra, Ian Nieto, and Parker are each and every one absolutely splendid, as are female ensemble members Tiffany Berg, Juliana Corral, Annika Ellwanger-Chavez, Taylor Magee, Kyra Olschewske, Sierra-Sky Roberts, and Tina Koyuki Whitley, with special snaps to dance captain Emily Dauwalder, whose Potiphar’s wife gets her own solo showcase.
Child charmers Paul Anderson, Emily Burley, Jackson Capitano, Carmina Garay, and Keira Ward complete the cast.
Carley McNamee’s simple, multilevel scenic design is all this production needs as a platform for performers, Andrea Birkholm’s delightful costumes, and property master Jack Freedman’s assorted paraphernalia, all of them professionally lit by McNamee. The production’s prerecorded instrumental tracks are expertly mixed with amped vocals by sound designer Jason Marshall.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is produced by Raylene Salazar. Assistant director/stage manager Kelsey Somerville is aided by backstage crew members Stephanie Martinez and Paloma Sanchez.
Fast-moving and fun, this early Lloyd Webber hit keeps audiences of all ages entertained from its opening notes to its exhilarating eight-minute “Joseph Megamix” singing/dancing encore and provides the Covina Center For The Performing Arts with a splendid end-of-year finale.
Covina Center For The Performing Arts, 104 N. Citrus Ave., Covina.
December 20, 2014