“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is being presented at 8 p.m. Friday, April 22, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23 and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, April 24 at Popejoy Hall, Center for the Arts, UNM campus. Tickets are available in advance at the UNM Bookstore, at The Pit, at select Albertsons locations, online at www.popejoypresents.com and www.unmtickets.com, by calling 925-5858 or toll-free 877-664-8661, and at the Center for the Arts box office. For group orders call 344-1779.
Review by David Steinberg
Joseph’s biblically famous coat of many colors lives up to the words “amazing ” and “technicolor” in the title of this pop musical.
But I would argue that the touring production now at Popejoy Hall is itself amazing and in technicolor. Be prepared to experience an audio-visual delight: Videos and projections which, combined with sound, lighting, set and costume designs, transform many scenes from ordinary to extraordinary. (Though sometimes the audio blurs the vocals.)
One of those transformed scenes is Joseph in a stark, high-ceilinged Egyptian jail whose conditions are made terrifyingly dim and foreboding.
These marvelous technical design qualities have elevated the musical from its origins in 1965 conceived by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice.
The musical is based on the Old Testament story of Joseph and his 11 brothers who are jealously angry over their father making Joseph his favorite son. They take out their anger by selling Joseph into slavery but cruelly telling Jacob, their dad, that he’s dead.
We see Joseph, a role dramatically sung and acted by JC McCann, go from favorite son to slave to right-hand-man of the Pharaoh. All the while he dreams and interprets them.
Webber and Rice grafted various musical styles in the show. Though dated, they still seem to work because the music shares the stage with the design qualities. Among those musical styles are Western, country, rock, calypso, French cafe music, and rock and roll.
One of the highlights that bridge the millennia is an Elvislike Pharaoh (Joe Ventricelli) right down to the swept-back hair, his singing and his trademark growl of “Thank you very much.”
Naturally, Pharaoh refers to himself as the King. The audience understands that it refers to being the King of Rock and Roll.
In smooth, swift choreographed movements, the female ensemble members represent the beauty of Pharaoh’s court.
Act I is prelude to Act II, which is when the Pharaoh initially appears. Act II also contains what I think is the top male ensemble moment of the show. The brothers vigorously, fraternally perform the French cafe song “Those Canaan Days” banging their empty tin bowls on a wooden table.
The lyrics show that the brothers miss the days of plenty – Canaan is suffering from a long drought – and their brother Joseph. The scene is also a key transitional moment in the story. The brothers head for Egypt seeking food. They are unknowingly up against Joseph, a politically powerful figure, though he recognizes his brothers.
Joseph puts his brothers through a test of truthfulness before he reveals his mercy, his forgiveness and his deep love of family.