If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

Family Musical Fun with “Joseph” in New Canaan

 

Wrapping up their season, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan is offering an energetic and family-friendly production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice is playing to full houses under the white tent in New Canaan through August 5.

 

“Dreamcoat” is a potpourri of musical stylings as it relays the familiar biblical tale of Joseph and his eleven 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 employs a range of anachronistic musical forms from country and pop ballads to calypso and rock.

 

The STONC production has several key ingredients which make it worthwhile starting with the casting of Christopher DeRosa in the title role. Handsome and vocally strong, DeRosa may be a tad mature to play Jacob’s youngest son, but few complaints arise when he starts singing. He’s also not afraid to show Joseph’s arrogance at the start of the musical before he becomes the hero of his own story. As the musical’s narrator, Corrine C. Broadbent works hard in the role and manages to engage the audience even as she has trouble hitting some of the high notes. It often seems as if the singer is struggling through the part in the wrong key range. This isn’t the case with all her songs, but it happens enough here to draw attention.

 

The ensemble of actors playing Joseph’s brothers is a harmonious treat, however, with Kenneth Linsley a standout leading the uproarious ballad, “Those Canaan Days”. Also fine is Johann Michael George who makes the spirited “Benjamin Calypso” number an exuberant delight. William Hammons’ Elvis-inspired Pharaoh has all the right moves but his diction is blurry and crucial lyrics are lost. I’m not a big fan of adding a children’s choir to the musical as STONC has done, but most theatres find it a necessity – the financial benefits being one obvious reason. That said, the cast of youngsters assembled in New Canaan are an adorable lot and bound to please all the relatives in the audience.

 

Charles Pavarini III’s muslin-draped setting finds room for the clever touch of a rising pyramid during the musical’s second act. Costume designer Arthur Oliver gets the Egyptian garb just right though Devon Allen’s lighting is hit and miss requiring more focus. Doug Shankman’s lively choreography has a lot of range and keeps this non-stop production just that. And, once again, Musical Director Stephen Purdy gets more than enough from his pistol-hot orchestra. Bumps acknowledged, you still won’t find a much better family musical offering in the area.

 

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” continues at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan through August 5. For further information and ticket reservations, call the theatre box office at 203.966.4634 or visit: www.stonc.org.

 

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program 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.

 


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