‘Joseph’ Pleases Crowd With Wild Energy
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
Monday, Dec. 15, Opera House
“Sure is lively, isn’t it?”
Someone in the audience made that comment at intermission, and I can hardly improve upon that as a succinct review of “Joseph and Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Good grief, it was lively.
I’ve never been to a Village People concert, thank goodness, but somehow I think it must be something like this. This national touring production was a 90-minute blur of dancing cowboys, strobe lights, flash pots and Elvis imitators.
In other words, it was like every other production of “Joseph,” which is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wildly energetic attempt to tell a biblical parable in the silliest and most theatrical way possible.
This touring production delivered the goods adequately, in fact, adequately enough to receive a standing ovation at the end.
However those of us who have seen numerous productions of this show couldn’t help but notice a few subtle, if such a word is possible in connection with “Joseph,” differences.
This tour has far fewer elaborate production values than the last “Joseph,” which blasted into town in 1995. That was the true Broadway revival tour, and it featured a choir of 44 local children and eye-popping stage effects, including a motorized camel. The centerpiece of that stage was a grand staircase, which seemingly swept all the way up into the rafters.
This version has a staircase, too, but with five steps.
The sets weren’t overwhelming, but the costumes were wildly creative. The Egyptians walked around in bicycle helmets, a touch which worked better than you might think. The skin-tight body stockings, painted with what looked like ancient tribal tattoos, were also effective.
There’s no faulting the energy coming off the stage. Many of the big production numbers were rousing audience-pleasers, including the disco-themed “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” the country-flavored “One More Angel In Heaven,” and of course, the Elvis-like “Poor, Poor Pharoah.”
One of the best numbers was the French cabaret song, “Those Canaan Days,” performed with great wit and timing by Simeon (Nathan Klau) and the rest of the brothers. They had a good time playing with this tune’s Chevalier-like campiness.
Good performances came from Adam Michaels as the hunky Joseph and Jennifer Shrader as the spunky Narrator.
However, the overall quality of the ensemble seemed just a notch below the top professional level. The dancing was shaky at times, the voices not always up to snuff. It came as no surprise to see that this is a non-Equity (meaning non-actor’s union) production.
Overall, this production struck me as about on the level of a high-quality college production, which is not actually an insult at all.
And it sure was lively.