Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Joseph is not Webber and Rice's strongest musical, written when Webber was just starting out, pre-Jesus Christ Superstar. I think he set out to prove that he could write in just about any musical style, and he does. We get light rock for the general narrative ("Jacob and Sons," "Joseph's Coat"), a country western tune ("One More Angel in Heaven"), a plaintive ballad ("Close Every Door"), a nod to early rockabilly ("Song of the King"), and if all of these weren't enough, the "Benjamin Calypso."
This lack of a recognizable idiom can make the piece difficult to stage, but director and choreographer Cory Boyas views everything through a whimsical sensibility and makes it work. Besides the passerelle, he employs a revolving stage, both used sparingly so as not to wear out their welcome. Taking this musical too seriously risks the audience picking up on its built-in deficiencies instead of just enjoying it as an amusement park thrill ride. This production seems to be about as perfect a realization as could be desired.
Christos Nicholoudis is well nigh perfect as Joseph: charismatic, confident and he sings well. What a shame that practicing law takes up so much of his timehe could be a go-to juvenile/leading man. Jamie Molina sings well as the Narrator, just the right mix of belt and legit, and she weaves in and out of the story with wonderful stage presence. Jim Wolfe is a strong father Jacob to his dozen sons. Pharaoh was written to be played as Elvis Presley, but with so many young people barely knowing who he was, using a woman and changing the persona to Cher is a clever idea, especially as played by Zoe Smith.
It is wonderful that the sons come in many colors, ages and sizes, and that many of our finest community theater supporting actors inhabit the roles. What a pleasure to see Noah Roderiques, Colton Larsen, Eldred Brown, Tahj Porter, Joe Eckstein, and Tanner Fults againand a few who are new to me. The ladies chorus, here called the Dreamweavers, is equally strong, so that the ensemble numbers form a wonderful piece of this puzzle.
Besides Mr. Boyas' direction and choreography, all the other technical elements share his viewpoint of the piece. Costumes by Georgina Willmott are eye popping, set design by Jeff Weber and props by Alyssa Goudy all seem to share the same artistic vision. Lighting designer Joseph P. Oshry's work is always on the highest artistic level.
Music direction by Alan Corey buys into Webber's early ethos, that the musical tapestry need have little or nothing to do with the historical setting as long as you provide the audience with some tunes they can hum, and Webber has always been a master at that. Everyone puts the score over with joy and musicality. The six-piece orchestra also serves the director very well.
Before the curtain, Managing Artistic Director Jeffery Kin shared memories of his entry into the Sarasota Theater communityvia a 1991 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Many of the people involved in the current production were also involved in the long ago one, so it is fair to guess that this is a labor of love for all. It shows, and the audience is along for a highly entertaining ride. Bravo to The Players Centre for their season opener.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs through October 6, 2019, at The Players Centre for Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. Box Office: 941-365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.