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Cincinnati by Scott Cain


Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Schuster Center


Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo
National tours of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat most often feature famous or "semi-famous" celebrities, as well as lots of bells and whistles in the way of design and choreography. For the tour currently playing at the Schuster Center in Dayton, Ohio, "American Idol" alums Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young continue this trend. They lead a talented cast in performing this fun, though not overly challenging, musical in a slick and creative showcase.

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, Ace Young puts his natural charm and model-worthy looks to good use, and he throws himself into the role with gusto. He has some strong vocal moments, but at other times sings in a pinched tone, sounding a bit like Bob Dylan. Diana DeGarmo has a stronger musical theater pedigree and is endearing in the role of the Narrator. Her singing is clear, colorful, and soulful (and includes an impressive vocal belt). DeGarmo's performance of "Pharaoh's Story" is especially strong. This couple is married off stage, and it's fun seeing them perform on stage together. The musical highlight of the show is a brief reprise of the prologue featuring just these two, with arrangements tailored to their vocal talents.

William Thomas Evans (Jacob/Potiphar) and Ryan Williams (Pharaoh) make the most of their roles as well, each earning lots of laughs and demonstrating fine singing voices. Paul Castree (Simeon), Brian Golub (Reuben), and Max Kumangai (Judah) are also wonderful with their numbers. The talented ensemble cast members bring strong vocals (including some very fine choral work) and first-rate execution of the dances.

Director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's work (9 to 5, Bring It On, In the Heights) starts out a bit shaky with a vaguely modern take on the opening moments, but then settles in with a few fresh ideas, inventive staging (including good use of many projections onto props), and some cool theatrical tricks. His many dances are vibrant, active, and varied, and enhance the production. Wayne Green leads a wonderful sounding band.

Beowulf Boritt has skillfully incorporated interesting videos and projections by Daniel Brodie into his scenic design, and also includes some creative set pieces. The lighting by Howell Binkley is aptly glitzy and lively. Jennifer Caprio's costumes are a letdown, with muted colors (even for Joseph's robe) and outfits that almost always skew toward the boring side, visually.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a family friendly show, and this national tour is a fresh take on the piece. The high energy and obvious talent of its cast, including "American Idol" alums Diane DeGarmo and Ace Young, along with strong production values, make for an entertaining two hours, but the material itself limits an audience's level of emotional investment. The show continues at the Schuster Center in Dayton through October 26, 2014. Tickets can be ordered by calling 937-228-3630. Information on the tour can be found at www.josephthemusical.com/ustour.


Photo: Daniel A. Swalec



-- Scott Cain


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