If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

“JOSEPH” & HIS DREAMCOAT BACK AT DOWNTOWN CABARET

 

For a while there it seemed like the Downtown Cabaret Theatre had stock in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.  The Bridgeport showplace found a gold mine with the tuneful bible story producing it roughly every ten years since the early 1980s.  So it’s reassuring to see the financially troubled venue back in business with their own production of this delightful family musical.

“Joseph” is a potpourri of musical stylings as it relays the familiar biblical tale of Joseph and his 11 brothers who, jealous of the attention he receives from their father, sell him into slavery.  Webber and Rice actually wrote this musical before the huge success of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, a far more serious work.  Indeed, “Joseph” has often been seen as the lightweight “Superstar” telling a relatively simple story with a melodic, easy-to-hum score.  The show contains nary a line of spoken dialogue and takes the form of light opera employing anachronistic musical forms ranging from country and pop ballads to calypso and rock.

The Cabaret production is clearly in good hands with its lead performers, Jodi Langel as the Narrator and Kris Stock as Joseph.  Langel’s stirring vocals can rock the theatre when need be as evidenced by her dynamic Act Two opener, “Pharaoh’s Story”.  As the musical’s welcoming guide she also engages the audience into the story with charm, poise and sex appeal.  Stock is an ideal Joseph, arrogant and innocent in equal measure with a commanding voice that brings haunting pathos to his lovely ballad, “Close Every Door”.

Under Scott Thompson’s well-paced direction and energetic choreography the entire company of “Joseph” seems solidly on track.   Jesse Lutrell’s Elvis-inspired Pharaoh shakes and shimmies on cue threatening to stop the show at several key moments.  And Joseph’s brothers are a marvelous hodgepodge of talented individuals who are truly individual.  Lesley Neilson-Bowman’s does well with an array of costume styles but I wish the signature dreamcoat was a bit more lavish.  J. Branson’s scenic design makes good use of the Cabaret stage with simple, witty settings and Hugh Hallinan’s expressive lighting adds immeasurable movement to the non-stop activity on stage.

The Cabaret’s dreamy production of “Joseph” is also a perfect fit for the holiday season.  Pack up the kids and a picnic and head for Bridgeport soon.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” continues at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport through December 19th with a special New Year’s Eve gala on December 31st.   At press time there was also talk of adding extra performances through January.  For further information and ticket reservations call 203.576.1636 or visit online at www.dowtowncabaret.org.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company.  He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com.  His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

This review first appeared in Elm City Newspapers beginning 12.1.10


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