Cecil B. DeMille meets Vegas meets pop-rock at its most eclectic in Broadway superstar-turned-director Marc Kudisch’s endlessly entertaining retelling of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s very first hit musical, and if you think you’ve seen Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before, think again. You’ve never seen one quite like 3-D Theatricals’ stand-up-and-cheer 2016-2017 season opener.
From its original 1969 concept album to the present day, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice collaboration has provided 100 minutes of pure, unadulterated, Technicolor music and fun—but rarely as cohesively as director Kudisch and choreographer Shannon Lewis have re-imagined it for 3-D, making this Joseph a treat even for those who’ve seen umpteen school or community theater or region or touring productions of the kids-friendly Genesis tale.
Joseph’s (Justin Anthony Long) misadventures in Bible-land begin soon after his father Jacob (Bryan Dobson) favors 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 Hebrew or Sunday School.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat offers audiences of any religious (or non-religious) persuasion the most delectably eclectic blend of pop music genres/eras of Lord Andrew’s half-century-long career.
From the country-western twangs of “One More Angel In Heaven,” to the 1920s-flavored “Potiphar,” to the Saturday Night Fever beats of “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” to the Elvis-ready “Song Of The King (Seven Fat Cows),” to the French chanson oh-la-la of “Those Canaan Days,” to the Caribbean flavors of “Benjamin Calypso,” it’s one tuneful showstopper after another, and these are just half-a-dozen of the twenty or so nonstop musical gems Joseph’s got up his many-colored sleeve.
Conventional wisdom would costume Reuben (Jason Peter Kennedy) in ten-gallon hat and spurs, Potiphar (Dobson) and his Missus (Lauren Decierdo) Roaring Twenties-style, the Baker (Nick Morganella) and Butler (Brady Stanley) a la Tony Manero, Pharaoh (Edred Utomi) in Vegas-ready Elvis wear, Simeon (Dennis Kyle) in striped chemise and jaunty beret, and Judah (Brandon Michael Nase) in his Jamaica finest.
Director Kudisch, costume coordinator Alexandra Johnson keep it Biblical all the way (or at least as Biblical as Cecil B. would have it were he restaging The Ten Commandments for the Las Vegas strip), giving this Joseph/Dreamcoat a look unlike any I’ve seen.
It helps enormously that 3-D Theatricals has once again assembled a crème-de-la-crème cast of L.A.’s finest musical theater performers, beginning with a radiant Charlotte Mary Wen, whose youth, exuberance, and power-packed pipes make her an inspired choice to tell Joseph’s tale to the three-dozen children who play a larger part here than most Joseph directors would have them do. (Their stageful of sheep are to aaah for.)
In addition to a Grand Old Opry-ready Kennedy, Dobson’s chroonerrific Potiphar and the lithe-and-leggy Decierdo as his lascivious bride, an Elvis-meets-Little Richard-meets-James Brown Utomi (also bro Levi), Kyle doing his best Yves Montand, and Nase giving Bob Marley a run for his Jamaican dollars, Morganella and Stanley (doing double duty as brothers Dan and Gad), Ernie Figueroa (Benjamin), Max Herzfeld (Issachar), Nic Hodges (Naphtali), Joe Komara (Zebulon), and Nick Waaland (Asher) all do bang-up work as do luscious wives Chassey Bennett, April Henry, Chloe Leatherwood, Katie McConaughy, Tina Nguyen, Kelly Powers, and Dayna Sauble. (Nguyen once again scores bonus points for some nifty fiddling.) Natalie Iscovich and Gavin Leatherwood are swings.
Choreographer Lewis turns virtually every one of Joseph’s songs into a a great-big uber-imaginative production number, with special snaps for the Elvis-walks-like-an-Egyptian moves of “Song Of The King (Seven Fat Cows),” the country hoedown kicks of “One More Angel In Heaven,” and a “Those Canaan Days” that has Joseph’s brothers in Violon Sur Le Toit mode. (That’s Fiddler On The Roof in French.)
Musical director Corey Hirsch not only conducts the production’s Broadway-caliber orchestra (musicians provided by the Los Angeles Musicians Collective) but has re-orchestrated Joseph’s score to stunning effect (with sound designer Julie Ferrin making them sound even more stunning).
Jean-Yves Tessier lights Stephen Gifford’s suitably imposing set (based on an original design by Rick Agiletti) and Jonathan Infante’s striking projection designs quite lustrously indeed. Peter Herman scores major points for wig after wig after wig, Denice Paxton for her makeup design expertise, and Terry Hanrahan for her abundance of Biblical props.
Ryan Ruge is assistant director and Anna Aimee White is assistant choreographer. Sarah Grandpre is choir director.
Donna R. Parsons is production stage manager and David Jordan Nestor is assistant stage manager. Jene Roach is technical director.
Following two weekends of performances at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat moves to Cerritos where it initiates 3-D Theatricals’ residency at the city’s gorgeous Performing Arts Center. Gateway Cities residents (and anyone within driving distance) can get set to be wowed Technicolor Dreamcoat-style.
Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 E. Manhattan Blvd., Redondo Beach.
October 1, 2106
Photos: Isaac James Creative