By Marlene S. Gaylinn

To celebrate its 30th Anniversary, Bridgeport’s Down Town Cabaret Theatre is presenting one of its most popular productions, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  The show is an early Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber collaboration and played here when the theatre first opened -- before the work even hit Broadway.  “Joseph…” became so popular that it was reproduced four times during the Cabaret’s history and several generations of loyal patrons have seen it. What’s really amazing is how each production managed to be entirely different.  We have seen both dark and blonde-haired Josephs, each wearing uniquely designed “coats of many colors,” a variety of short and tall Elvis Presley impersonators shaking their hips in various bell-bottomed, sequined jumpsuits, plus some of the sexiest Mrs. Potiphers since Gypsy Rose Lee.  Even the camels dragging Joseph into Egyptian slavery have changed and multiplied over the years.

For this special, anniversary production, the Cabaret’s Executive Producer, Hugh Hallinan made some tremendous improvements.  For the first time, Stan Wietzychowski’s excellent, six-piece orchestra is comfortably stationed on the side balcony.  The stage has been extended to allow room for a larger cast of singing dancers.  In keeping up with the latest technology, realistic scenery projections and unusual, pulsing, lighting effects by Hugh Hallinan and Chris Herman have been added.   One very attractive highlight that takes center stage is Joseph’s swirling coat that magically turns into a delightful color-wheel.  There are many other lighting surprises.

The Old Testament tells about Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph.  The father foolishly displays favoritism by giving this particular son a magnificent, colorful coat.  As a result, Joseph’s envious brothers conspire to sell him into slavery in Egypt.  Along the way, the naive youth encounters some misadventures and matures.  Because Joseph has the gift of interpreting dreams, he saves the Egyptian people from starving and rises in station.  The brothers come on hard times and grovel at Joseph’s feet without recognizing him.  At the end, everyone becomes enlightened about the pitfalls of human nature.

Pert and pretty Jodi Langel acts as “The Narrator.”  She engages the audience with her lovely singing and interacts with the performers while moving the story along.  The sound system, as controlled by Chris Gensur, is so clear that every word uttered by the soloists and chorus members can be heard from anywhere in the house.

We enjoyed Kris Stock’s innocent interpretation of “Joseph.”  J.Nycole Ralph was a voluptuous, Mrs. Potopher.  Swaggering, Lance Anthony’s Country Western rendition of “One More Angel” and Michael Wright’s wistful, French swooning in “Canaan Days” were particularly outstanding.  Individual male and female characters also performed in the chorus and added lively zest while the “Apache Dancers” Marissa Dompe and John Royse provided a needed respite from the more frantic scenes.  The Calypso number provided tons of fun however, a few seconds of impulsive, crotch clutching was a turn off that should be eliminated.  Jesse Lutrell made a fine Pharaoh however his height was slightly against him when it came to portraying Elvis.  Lesley Neilson-Bowman’s exotic costumes were stunning and creatively comical when she mixed-matched oriental and western outfits in “One More Angel.”   Under Connecticut Critics Circle award winner, Scott Thompson’s fast-paced direction and despite exhausting, multiple costume changes, the entire cast rocked and rolled their hearts out to a well-deserved, standing ovation.

Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret theatre, is currently the best, professionally produced musical around.  The tickets are reasonable, the theatre is simple to reach, parking is easy and you can dress casually.  So, book a table, pack your picnics, grab your family and come to the Cabaret my friends.  It might become a regular habit.

Plays Fri. Sat. & Sun. through Dec. 19 – New Years Eve Gala – Phone 203-576-1636

This review appears in "On Connecticut Theatre" December/2010


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