JOSEPH’S DREAMCOAT SPARKLES
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Happily, those hot and dry “Canaan Days” are being celebrated under a comfortable tent in the wet woods of Waveny Park, New Canaan CT. This appropriate setting is where Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC) is presenting a faced-paced production of “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“Joseph…” is an early Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber collaboration that originally played at a London prep school before becoming an award-winning musical. The theme, based on the Old Testament, concerns Jacob’s son, Joseph, and illustrates the pitfalls of human nature. The father unwisely displays favoritism by presenting Joseph with a richly decorated, 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. Meanwhile the brothers come on hard times and grovel at Joseph’s feet without recognizing him. At the end, everyone becomes enlightened and redeemed. Woven into this “new coming of age” are the melding of colorful cultures, various musical styles and lots of singing and dancing.
What’s really “Amazing” about “Joseph…” is that each production manages to be entirely different. While the characters and music remain the same, we have seen both dark and blond-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 some multiplied as well. Notably, Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret produced the show before it hit Broadway and magnificent versions ensued there over the years. Now STONC has still another interesting version.
Here, pert and pretty Corinne Broadbent acts as “The Narrator.” She engages the audience and interacts with the performers quite well while moving the story along. However, her voice seemed to be strained and some sentences simply slipped by us. We enjoyed Christopher DeRosa’s innocent interpretation of “Joseph.” His meaningful rendition of the beautiful, “Close Every Door,” was particularly moving. Grace Hardin rendered a toned-down version of the seductive, Mrs. Potopher, while the many faces of veteran performer, Brian Silliman, shone out in the roles of Jacob, Potiphar and the Baker. Unfortunately, William Hammons was not old enough to see the real “Elvis the pelvis” perform. His uninspiring interpretation of Rockin’ Roll was mostly glorified, squat squeezing.
The highly animated ensemble carried the show and was among the brightest groups we have seen. A swaggering Country Western rendition of “One More Angel,” the wistful, French swooning in “Canaan Days,” the lively, Calypso routine and the Israeli circle dances, all choreographed by Doug Shankman, were particularly outstanding. A well-trained children’s chorus added a very charming touch and the wonderful orchestra, under the direction of Stephen Purdy, rounded out this highly colorful show.
Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a professionally produced musical. The theatre is off Exit 37 on the Merritt Pkwy. Parking is free. Plays through August 5. Tickets: 203-966-4634
This review appears in “On Connecticut Theatre” July/August 2012.