Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is both transcendent and transplendent! This fun and funny, family-friendly musical lights up the stage at The Kennedy Center this holiday season, bringing gifts you can’t find in stockings hung by the fire—such as the gift of music, the gift of laughter, and the gift of love!
With music by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by the ultra-talented Tim Rice, the musical was originally conceived as a 15-minute cantata for a prep school performance in London in 1968, and over the years was enhanced into a full-length musical which opened on Broadway in 1982. The show garnered nine Tony Award nominations and has delighted audiences of all ages ever since.
Director/Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler leads a U.S. touring company in a superbly updated version of the familiar classic. This high-energy, high-tech, high-octane version is spectacular in its own right, but still keeps the sweetness and humor of the original. Just as in past versions, the audience is skillfully catapulted back and forth between ancient times and recent history with clever anachronisms and hilarious satire, including a nod to 1960s vernacular when Joseph exclaims, “I don’t believe in free love!” The play contains very little dialogue and most of the story is told in song—almost in the manner of an operetta. Kudos to Music Director Wayne Green for his powerful execution of the score!
Beowulf Boritt’s set design provides a much more sophisticated and less campy ambience than that seen in previous productions and Projection and Video Designer Daniel Brodie takes the combination of artistry and technology to an exciting new level.
The story begins with “Jacob and Sons” describing how Jacob has twelve sons but shows clear favoritism to Joseph, so much so that his eleven brothers are very jealous. Joseph doesn’t help matters when he describes to his brothers how he dreams that one day they will all bow down to him. His brothers’ response is that, “Not only is he tactless but he’s also rather dim, for there’s eleven of us and there’s only one of him.”
This leads to trouble for Joseph as he is sold into slavery in Egypt, where he goes from being the favorite of a very rich man to being in prison for having allegedly betrayed his master. In more plot twists he helps Pharaoh’s butler to “butle” again, and the butler brings him to Pharaoh’s attention, where his ability to interpret dreams leads him to the highest honors in the land and more drama for him and his family.
The soulful and sexy Ace Young plays Joseph and the stunning and talented Diana DeGarmo plays the Narrator. Both are graduates of the television show, American Idol as well as Broadway stars with numerous credits between them. (And, in case you’re interested, they are husband and wife!)
While much of the show is played for comedy, there are some necessarily somber moments.For example, Young soloes to begin the hauntingly beautiful “Close Every Door.” This thrilling number begins very quietly and then crescendos to a triumphant climax. The audience felt a split second of silent awe and then collapsed into applause.
By definition, the role of the Narrator is extremely challenging, since she is on stage throughout most of the show. However, DeGarmo’s dynamic vocal talents are clearly up to the challenge. As a team, Young and DeGarmo demonstrate that they have chemistry both on stage and off stage when they perform a lovely duet reprising “Prologue.”
Claire Camp turns in a bravura performance in the limited, but very entertaining role of Mrs. Potiphar. She uses her lithe and sensuous dance moves to try to seduce the callow youth, Joseph, in a style reminiscent of Mrs. Robinson in the 1967 film, The Graduate.
Ryan Williams is absolutely wonderful as Pharaoh. This remarkable young man plays the King of Egypt as the King of Rock and Roll, with all of the lip-curling, hip-swiveling excitement of Elvis himself—right down to his iconic sign-off, “Thank you. Thank you very much!” In “Poor Poor Pharaoh”/“Song of the King,” Williams fairly oozes with attitude and charm, and he has sex appeal to spare. His bumps and grinds are effortless and impeccable.
The true “star” of the show is the ensemble, especially the ones who play Joseph’s brothers. There are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to fully describe their incredible talents! Their singing, dancing, and comedy are spectacular in a wide variety of musical styles. Brian Golub (Reuben) leads the brothers and others in an amazing Western cowboy rendition of “One More Angel in Heaven,” and Max Kumangai (Judah) does the same with the Caribbean-style “Benjamin Calypso.” The entire ensemble shines in the athletic hip-hop version of “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” one of the most enduringly popular songs in the show.
However, when Paul Castree as Simeon leads his brothers in “Those Canaan Days,” it quite literally stops the show. There were several minutes of thunderous applause, cheers and shouts of “bravo” until Castree pleaded for calm.The number is inspired by an earthy French café and features a sitting dance with metal plates rhythmically passed down the table and a segment where Simeon “plays” his brothers’ harmonic voices like a synthesizer.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat teaches that “Any Dream Will Do,” and we all have dreams, don’t we? So, go, go, go theatre lovers to see this dreamy Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!”
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays through January 4, 2015 at The Kennedy Center Opera House — 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4400 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online