"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Downtown Cabaret Theatre, Bridgeport
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a razzle-dazzle show which lights up downtown Bridgeport this holiday season. Productions numbers in this sung-through musical follow hard on each other, always with bounce and verve.
Downtown Cabaret has fortunately opted for the best of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice efforts—a show based on an endearing Old Testament tale. “Joseph” marked the beginnings of the famed collaboration. (Originally it was a short piece written for a school concert, to be later expanded into a full-length musical.) Though the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice team would go on from strength to strength (with “Evita” and others in the future), this early effort reflected the brashness and optimism of youth. How appropriate that they had chosen the upbeat Joseph story!
It is an irreverent spoof, but the story is laid out all the same. Jacob, the patriarch favors his son Joseph over his eleven brothers, giving him a coat of many colors. The brothers deeply resent Joseph, and the coat is the final straw. Hence they sell Joseph into slavery, handing him over to the traveling Ishmaelites. But Joseph will triumph with his secret weapon, the ability to interpret dreams. Ultimately, in Egypt, he will interpret the Pharaoh’s dream and save the country from starvation. “Any Dream Will Do,” the show’s opening song, sets the tone for this adventure tale, with its hills and valleys, its bright and darker moments.
In this production, director Scott Thompson emphasizes the Broadway show-biz side of the musical. The story, unfortunately, gets short shrift, given the relentless non-stop parade of song-and-dance numbers. An occasional quieter interlude might have brought the story itself to center stage, acknowledging moments of poignancy.
But Thompson and company make the most of the delightful tunes, and the irreverent lyrics which turn the Bible into modern jargon. It’s all tongue-in-check, as the eleven brothers honor Joseph’s downfall with the delicious “One More Angel in Heaven” or Potiphar’s Wife attempts Joseph’s seduction in “Potiphar.” The music is confined to no one genre, but ranges from rock and roll to calypso to pure Lloyd Webber. They have even turned the Pharaoh into an Elvis Presley look-alike.
As to the cast, Thompson is blessed with Jodi Langel as the Narrator, who brings humor, irony and a fine voice to the role. J. Nycole Ralph gives a memorable turn as the slithery, seductive Potiphar’s Wife, and Jesse Luttrell’s Pharaoh\ as Elvis offers an evening’s highlight. While Kris Stock tends to move about the stage stiffly, he does bring a mellifluous voice and endearing boyishness to his performance as Joseph.
On the whole, the show is well designed, choreographed, and directed—and exudes a feeling of good will which spills over into the audience.
It is all great fun, and if the poignancy is lost along the way, so be it.
Dec. 1, 2010