Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
For a number of years, national tours of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat have featured famous and semi-famous celebrities, as well as lots of bells and whistles in way of design and choreography. For the current national tour, Patrick Cassidy (brother of Shaun and David) and Amy Adams (of "American Idol" fame) help continue the trend. They lead a talented cast in performing this fun, though not overly challenging, musical in a showcase that is entertaining for audiences of all ages.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a retelling of the Old Testament story of Jacob and his twelve sons. Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob, but his jealous brothers sell Joseph into slavery. However, Joseph overcomes the odds to become a high ranking official under the Egyptian Pharaoh, in large part thanks to his ability to interpret dreams. After many years, he is finally reunited with his family.
This musical was one of the first collaborations of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The pair would go on to write Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita together, before continuing their esteemed careers separately. Webber's music for Joseph is simple, yet quite melodic, and incorporates various styles including pop, country, reggae, vaudeville, and rockabilly, among others. Despite a few false rhymes, Rice demonstrates efficiency in his lyrics, along with a good deal of wit. Songs include "Jacob and Sons," "Close Every Door," and "Any Dream Will Do."
The story for this all-sung piece includes a good deal of humor (including just the right amount of camp), some lessons on forgiveness and maturity, and a sufficient level of drama. The book also effectively uses a narrator that both comments on and participates in the show's action. However, the story contains little emotional pull and the characters are presented without much depth.
As Joseph, Patrick Cassidy comes off better here than he did in his last visit to Cincinnati as the lead in another show set in Egypt, Aida. His natural charm and good looks are put to good use, and he throws himself into the role with gusto. Mr. Cassidy's singing voice is pleasant for the most part, though he does use an odd vocal technique at times that seems a bit too forceful, especially during quieter numbers such as "Close Every Door." As the Narrator, Amy Adams doesn't really have to act, which may be a good thing for the theatrical newcomer, but she does very capably belt out the show's score, even producing chills on "Pharaoh's Story." Nicholas F. Saverine (Jacob/Potiphar) and Todd Dubail (Pharaoh) make the most of their roles as well, each earning lots of laughs and demonstrating fine singing voices. The ensemble cast members seem well rehearsed and are especially talented dancers. Members of the Cincinnati Children's Choir also appear in the show and are a cute addition to the proceedings.
Director Dallett Norris wisely stages the show with a lighthearted touch, and provides an aptly quick pace. He also uses the ensemble well in the storytelling and incorporates a couple of puppets into the action to great amusement. Joseph is a musical that requires a lot of dancing, and choreographer Arlene Phillips does a fine job with this tour. The many dances are lively and fun to watch, and ribbon twirling is used effectively as well.
The simple, yet attractive and suitable set design is by James Fouchard. The lighting by Rick Belzer is likewise appropriate, active, and colorful.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a family friendly show and this national tour is a satisfactory representation of the piece. The high energy and obvious talent of its cast and strong production values make this a worthwhile viewing for both fans of the show and for audience members just looking to be entertained. The tour continues at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati, Ohio through February 26, 2006. For more information and tickets, call (513) 241-7469.-- Scott Cain