Go go go – to Toby’s Dinner Theater of Baltimore for their dazzling production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. You may have seen this show before but you’ve probably never seen the show as colorful as this production. With Directors Tina Marie DeSimone and Shawn Kettering at the helm this sensational Broadway smash gets a fabulous makeover that really makes the production worth seeing. The tale of Jacob, his twelve sons including the prodigal one – Joseph and his rags to riches tail involving epic song and dance numbers, attempted fratricide and a Pharaoh King; this Tony Nominated musical will take you on a fantastical journey that goes way way back many centuries ago.
Directors Shawn Kettering and Tina Marie DeSimone cast a perfect show. Each person in their role fits like a hand in a satin evening gown glove; more perfect selections could not have been made for this production. DeSimone and Kettering take a bold approach to the musical setting it ablaze with riotous moments of hilarity and fun new nuances to keep theatre-goers on their toes. They go all out with a new flashy style and a few ad-lib bits from key characters creating the ultimate new twist on this classic musical. The energy and spirits run high in the cast as well as the powerful vocal renditions, the choreography is impressive and free-wheeling; every aspect of this production is perfection in its finest form.
Sets Lights and Costumes are the decadent icing on this already impeccable cake. Scenic Designer David A. Hopkins transports you to ancient Egypt with large stone hieroglyphic carvings all around the house. And when the show finally hops on the road to Egypt Hopkins takes Pharoah’s Elvis persona to the next level with a flashy Vegas-strip show pyramid. Lighting Designer Lynn Joslin brings her talents to the show by highlighting a series of colored lights in color order and time as each color is sung out during the song “Joseph’s Coat.” Joslin also provides a tight white spotlight for the Narrator every time she has an important solo, creating a stark contrast to the more colorful lights used throughout the rest of the show. Costume Designer Janine Sunday takes the cake with more colors in Joseph’s coat than the song ever lets on and her unique black poodle skirts with gold outlined Sphinxes as the poodles for Pharaoh’s groupies are simply fit for a King. Together this trio of treasure hunters adds sparkle, sensation, and stimulation to the production design of the performance.
DeSimone takes on the task of choreographing the show and produces a valiant victory in her attempt. The main string of her intense dance routines is executed by the brothers. Between their chorus line of kicks and using their shepherd’s crooks as canes during their jazzy rag in “Joseph’s Dreams” and the hoedown hootenanny during “One More Angel In Heaven” we see a wide range of athletic movements and aesthetically pleasing gestures. DeSimone adds the right sprinkling of pizzazz to the perfect numbers and even gets a full blown conga line with a limbo rolling its way across the stage in Act II.
Joseph (Ben Lurye) is the favored son of Jacob (Andrew Horn) and ends up inadvertently making all eleven of his brothers jealous. Lurye has a pure and modern sound to his voice bringing a unique feel to the title character. His emotions are warm, experienced solely through his solos, and his singing is expressive, particularly in “Close Every Door.” This moving sentiment is repeated in his finale song “Any Dream Will Do” with such a sweet voice that he brings the audience to thunderous applause.
Opposite Lurye is the vessel of the story, The Narrator (Coby Kay Callahan). With a modern-pop quality to her voice Callahan creates a powerful clear belt in numbers such as “Pharaoh’s Story” and “Potiphar” and allows her smile to carry a sense of hope and confidence throughout the show.
What makes this production heads and shoulders above other productions I have seen before are the cameo roles that are filled by talented Toby’s veterans. Belting to the heavens in “One More Angel In Heaven” you notice The Angel (Julia Lancione) in this production because of her powerful pipes. Lancione’s sweet heavenly sound rings through the rafters/ And to shake rattle and roll things up we have Pharaoh (Will Emory) as a legitimate Vegas-strip Elvis impersonator. Emory’s violent pelvic thrusts nearly send him careening off his podium and when he starts flirting in true blue-suede shoe style with the audience – hearts are getting broken.
But the cameo king and queen go to Potiphar (David Bosley-Reynolds) and Mrs. Potiphar (Heather Marie Beck). Reynolds charms the audience with a flighty new twist on the Egyptian millionaire, and a few good natured modern ad-libs that makes it all the more amusing to watch him strut his stuff with elegant ease. Beck is screaming sex scandal with her libidinous approach to the character making the minor moment in the spotlight that much more intense and appealing. Together the pair make for a romping good time during the number “Potiphar.”
While the show may be called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, it really boils down to the brothers. You won’t find 11 more talented men anywhere you look! They sing in perfect harmony and rhythm, the dance with a polish and flare, and when they get down to it – it almost becomes a competition of who can make their solo more notable. Starting with Naphtali (Lester Horton) who leads the crazy Caribbean rhythm section of the show, jammin’ a solo with “The Benjamin Calypso.” Horton ‘Jamaica’ me crazy with his mad limbo and party skills in this number too.
Then we jump up the line to good old down on the farm Levi (Chris Rudy.) Driving the herd home during “One More Angel In Heaven” Rudy digs his spurs right into the role, rippin’ up the stage with a rootin’ tootin’ good boot stompin’ and a great cowboy sound to his powerful pipes. Rueben (Alan Hoffman) the eldest of Jacob’s sons. Hoffman completes the around-the-world circuit of the brothers by landing us in gay Paris with his charming French approach to “Those Canaan Days.” With another brief ad-lib, Hoffman lights up this number in a manner that does justice to the city of lights. His voice is strong and caries delightfully over the other ten brothers on the stage.
But the battle of the brothers comes down to two that don’t even have featured solos! Benjamin (Matt Wetzell) and Judah (Scean A. Flowers) appear to have their own personal sibling rivalry going on throughout the production; a direct competition for who can steal more scenes from whom! It’s an absolute riot as these two go about it in subtle but hysterical ways. Flowers has vivid facial expressions and engages his body to the fullest when expressing emotions of the brothers that the narrator glosses over from song to song. Wetzell becomes a comic entity all his own while attempting to navigate the brothers to Egypt with a stone tablet GPS. Together Flowers and Wetzell add comedy and hilarity and all around amazing quirk to this already fantastical show.
Technicolor never looked this good and you won’t want to miss out – so stone the crows, follow the brothers and get yourself a camel to Egypt before Joseph takes his final bow.
Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes with one-20 minute intermission.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays through November 18, 2012 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore in The Best Western Hotel and Conference Center – 5625 O’Donnell Street, in Baltimore, MD. For ticket reservations call the box office at (410) 649-1660, or purchase them online.