Take a handsome Old Testament hero with eleven brothers envious of his Coat Of Many Colors, a Pharaoh straight out of Graceland, and an American Idol-ready Narrator, stir in imaginative direction and some of the most energetic choreography in town, and top it off with tunes written by a very young (and not yet knighted) Andrew Lloyd Webber and what you’ve got is Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre’s latest—and one of its very best—big-stage musicals: Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
From its original 1969 concept album to the present day, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice collaboration has provided one hundred minutes of pure, unadulterated, Technicolor music and fun—and never more so than at Candlelight as directed and choreographed by Alison Hooper.
A kids-friendly adaptation of the Genesis tale, 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.
The Misadventures Of Joseph (Caleb Shaw) begin soon after his father Jacob (Jason Marquez) presents him with a multicolored coat, a gift that so enrages his eleven bros that they sell him into slavery in Egypt.
Once there, our hero’s ability to interpret dreams makes him second-in-command to none other than Pharaoh himself.
Later, when famine strikes the land, Joseph’s starving brothers head off towards Egypt in search of food, and who should they meet there but …. You guessed it, that is if you didn’t already know the story from Sunday School.
Sung-through musicals like Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat require first and foremost a cast who can sing, and since Joseph is about as sung-through as a musical can get, Candlelight has lucked out big-time with an all-around sensational cast of 20something triple-threats who can not only sing like angels under Keely Milliken’s expert musical direction, they can kick up their heels with the best of them, feats of footwork that Hooper’s high-energy choreography has them executing pretty much throughout the show.
As for Hooper’s supremely imaginative direction, there’s hardly one of Joseph’s dozen and a half catchy songs that doesn’t feature yet another of her inspired touches, from a trio of singing Egyptians (a camel, a sphinx, and a sock-puppet serpent) to a stageful of dancing Jets (a la West Side Story) to a bevy of harem-garbed Bollywood beauties to a herd of country-and-western truckers and their plaid-clad honeys to a tribe of tie-dyed hippies popping by from a neighboring Hair revival … and more.
Singing Joseph’s tale is The Narrator, a part performed throughout Joseph’s early years by a series of male vocalists, that is until Laurie Beechman redefined the role off-Broadway in 1981, and since then the all-seeing storyteller has remained female, though whether she sings legit, country, or pop depends on just who gets the role.
Young stunner Alyssa Grant opts for the latter at Candlelight, her renditions of “Jacob And Sons,” “Poor, Poor Joseph,” and other assorted Lloyd Webber tunes reaching the Pavilion rafters. (And she’s never far from her cell phone camera and selfie stick to snap shots of the entire cast.)
As for our titular hero, Candlelight could not have made a finer choice than charming, boy-next-door handsome leading man Shaw, who sings up as storm, shows off his own nifty dance chops, and earns sky-high marks for Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s most dramatic number “Close Every Door.”
As for those jealous bros, Candlelight has cast as exceptional an eleven as any non-Equity production could wish for—Fabio Antonio as Levi, Joseph understudy Jared Barnard as Benjamin, Marius Beltran as Asher, Michael Deni as Zebulun, Matt Dunn as Simeon, Dylan David Farris as Dan, Robert Johnson as Reuben, James Joseph as Judah, Frankie Marrone as Naphtali, Michael Milligan as Gad, and Josh Tangermann as Issachar.
Lloyd Webber and Rice use the Joseph story as a springboard for a veritable rainbow of musical genres, a dazzling variety of styles which offer showcase moments to many members of Candlelight’s talented cast.
“One More Angel In Heaven” has Johnson twanging in his best country-cowboy mode. Marquez’s Potiphar channels crooners of days gone by in the 1920s-flavored “Potiphar.” “Go, Go, Go Joseph” features the Pharaoh’s Baker (Deni) and Butler (Farris) 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 dead ringer Marquez) who’s about as all-shook-up as they come.
The plaintive “Those Canaan Days,” features Simeon (Dunn) in striped chemise, jaunty beret, and accent français so thick you could cut it with a couteau. And you can guess which musical genre gets spoofed by Judah (Joseph) in “Benjamin Calypso.”
Female cast members Elizabeth Campbell, Gabriela Campo, Melissa Gattoni, Kelsey Milligan, Kayla Rowland, Erin Umphenour, Chelsea Witt, and Hannah Wolgemuth get nearly as much of a song-and-dance workout as the boys and they are each and every one quite splendid, with special snaps to Umphenour’s sultry Mrs. Pothphar and Campo’s sexy Apache Dance duet with Antonio.
Candelight’s Joseph couldn’t have a more professional look, beginning with its classy Egyptian-themed set (designed by Mitch Gill and adapted by Colleen Bresnahan), lit to vivid perfection by Steve Giltner (lighting provided by SteetLite LLC). Best of all are Jenny Wentworth’s genre-bending, multi-era-spanning Technicolor costumes (provided by The Theatre Company) and Mary Warde’s fabulous wigs. Danny Bride is stage manager.
Daniel Moorefield is stage manager and Orlando Montes technical director. Executive chef Juan Alvarado and sous chef Maria Sandoval serve up Candlelight’s invariably yummy cuisine. Kudos as always to Candlelight Pavilion owner/producer Ben D. Bollinger, general manager/vice president Michael Bollinger, acting producer Mindy Teuber, and especially to artistic director John LaLonde.
If Sunday evening’s jam-packed dinner performance is any indication, tickets for Candlelight’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be selling like Biblical hotcakes, and no wonder. From its opening notes to its exhilarating eight-minute “Joseph Megamix” singing/dancing encore, this is family-friendly musical entertainment at its crowd-pleasing best.
Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.
July 19, 2105
Photos: Adam Trent