Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Also see John's review of Working
Joseph is a retelling of the Old Testament story of Jacob and his twelve sons. Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. They deceive their father into believing Joseph is dead. Far away in Egypt, Joseph is thrown into jail after the Potiphar misunderstands his servant Joseph's intentions toward the Potiphar's wife. In time, Joseph's ability to foretell the future through interpreting dreams finds him in good favor with the Pharaoh. He is released from prison to become one of the highest ranking officials of Egypt. Years later, his now destitute brothers come to Egypt to ask the help of this official, not knowing his true identity. He reveals himself only after testing their loyalty to one another after falsely accusing one of them of theft. Jacob and all of his sons are happily reunited at the end of the story.
The musical begins with a youth choir of some 30 children (this production will use two rotating casts of children's choruses) singing their way to the stage as they file through the audience. They are greeted by the Narrator (Amy Miller Brennan) who spins an inspirational tale of a young man named Joseph and the power of his dreams. The children remain seated onstage throughout the entire production. From their benches at the far sides of the stage, they remain appropriately subtle in their presence for most of the show. Yet the moments in which they are fully incorporated or featured in the action at hand make for a delightful production. The audience is able to see the story through the eyes of the children, and the strong relationships established between the adult actors and the children on stage strengthen the story line and our connection to it.
As the Narrator, Brennan makes her bond with the children very clear from the start of the show. She has a sweetness and animation to her character, and a rock solid singing voice that is sure to please true aficionados of the show. The role has been identified with Laurie Beechman because of her ability to belt higher passages with clarity difficult to match. Brennan indeed matches Beechman note for note without screaming or sounding strained. She also remains present to the action around her even when not directly involved.
Joseph Canfield plays the role of Joseph with great sincerity. There seems genuine growth of maturity in his character from the beginning scene to his ascension to his position as one of Pharaoh's most prized officials. While he has a lovely singing voice, Canfield more importantly focuses on the emotion behind the lyrics, such as in the song "Close Every Door to Me," in which he tenderly portrays the heartache of that moment in Joseph's journey.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is written with intentionally eclectic musical styles throughout. The mix of styles leads to a variety of instrumentations, creative choreography, clever costumes, and entertaining cameo performances by the supporting cast. Choreographer Barbara Flaten takes full advantage of providing engaging dance moments. Henry Gainza (Levi) delivers "One More Angel in Heaven" in country western style, featuring the ensemble in a rollicking hoedown. A '60s pop version of "Go, Go, Go Joseph" has psychedelic hula hoops, and girls shimmying in mini-skirts and thigh-high boots. Christopher A. Kent (Simeon) croons a rather French sounding "Those Canaan Days," featuring an amazing dance performance by Apache dancer Celia Louise Merendi. Her execution is stunning. In an otherwise modernized version of the musical, the Pharaoh (Nick Duckart) is portrayed in the same over-the-top Elvis impersonator way it was years ago. Productions of the past several years portray the Pharaoh shirtless, tanned and muscle-bound, flexing as he flirts with the audience. Duckart does a good job Elivis-ing it up in "Song of The King," but it is a puzzling directorial choice to have children, whose heartthrob is most likely Justin Beiber, pretend to swoon over a mock Elvis. Walter Kemp II (Judah) shows off strong dance and comedic skills with his limber performance of "Benjamin Calypso." Oddly, David Perez Ribada (Benjamin) remains expressionless throughout this entire song.
The songs are very well sung, the costuming is fun, and the ensemble is solid, whether featured or singing/dancing as a chorus. The "Entr'acte" cleverly showcases the Youth Choir singing and dancing. The "MegaMix/Bows" at the end of the show allow for enjoyable mini-reprises of some of the songs. Twelve years after their last successful production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Actors' Playhouse has once again done a beautiful job with this endearing show, and will hopefully enjoy even greater success this time around.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat originally premiered as a 30-minute rock cantata in 1968 before being reshaped and professionally staged as a musical in 1972. It opened at the Royale Theatre on Broadway in 1982, starring Laurie Beechman as the Narrator. The musical received eight Tony Award nominations and went on to play for 747 performances. It was revived on Broadway in 1993 at the Minskoff Theatre for an additional 231 performances. A London revival also mounted in 1993 starred Jason Donovan, and later Donny Osmond as Joseph. Osmond's performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was filmed and released on DVD.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has received three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Oscar, an International Emmy, a Golden Globe Award, six Olivier Awards, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. His works include thirteen musicals, two film scores, one song cycle, a set of variations, and a Latin Requiem Mass. Tim Rice went on to write the lyrics for the musical Chess and The Lion King (with Elton John's music). He won an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award in 1993 for the song "A Whole New World" from the film Aladdin.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be appearing through April 8, 2012, at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. Actors' Playhouse is the nonprofit resident theatre company and managing agent of the historic Miracle Theatre on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables. Actors' Playhouse, which has brought home 66 regional Carbonell Awards for artistic excellence, is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and one of 22 major cultural institutions in Miami-Dade County. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse offers a year-round season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program, as well as educational arts outreach programs for underserved youth, and has initiated a "Young Talent Big Dreams" contest for children in partnership with The Children's Trust. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Performances are usually Wednesday - Saturday at 8:00 PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at 305-444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.