Who would have thought that the Biblical tale of Joseph and his coat of many colors would make a highly entertaining musical? Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice did—and came up with JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. It was the first of the legendary pair’s musicals to be performed publicly, first as a 15-minute pop cantata in 1968. It underwent many expansions and changes, and was not performed in its final version until after the success of Webber and Rice’s second venture, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. JOSEPH opened in London’s West End in 1973, but did not reach Broadway until1984. It is a favorite of community and school theatre groups, and is staged in this happy instance by Mainstage Center for the Arts at Camden County College under the direction of Edward P. Fiscella, Mainstage Producing Artistic Director, assisted by a talented creative team and orchestra.
Almost everyone, at least in the Judeo-Christian world, is familiar with the story in the Book of Genesis about Joseph, the favorite son of patriarch Jacob, who brags once too often to his brothers about his dreams that they will some day bow down to him. They sell him to passing slave traders, who take him to Egypt. There, through a series of circumstances and his ability to interpret dreams, he becomes second in command to Pharaoh, supervising the storing of grain through seven years of plenty for the succeeding seven lean years. His brothers come to buy grain, and he has a little fun with them before he reveals himself and the family is joyously reunited.
It is the staging, and in this production the youthful exuberance of the cast, that brings new freshness to the show. Its multiple musical styles, from Country and Western to Calypso, are enthusiastically interpreted by the singing and dancing ensemble as well as the principals. There is usually one narrator, but this time there are four, all with lovely voices: Genna Garofalo, Chelsea Elizabeth Fields, Nicole Corigliano and Diana Faye. Josh Toro is Joseph, an appealing if sometimes arrogant young man. The brothers, their wives and other ensemble members are too numerous to mention each by name, but all are excellent. Josh Brooks is a believable Jacob. Grace Szczepowski, in a belly dance costume, is impressive as Mrs. Potiphar, the would-be seductress who causes Joseph to be thrown in prison by her furious husband (Charles Ware). JD Shaw is a delight as the Pharaoh, the image of—but if you haven’t seen the show, let’s not spoil the surprise.
The set, made up of a series of steps, seems a little strange at first but works very well. The use of a children’s choir in some of the choral numbers is an effective touch. The lighting and costumes are excellent. All in all, the show is as colorful as the “dreamcoat” of the title, and is great entertainment for all the family. It runs for one more weekend, July 27 and 28, at 7:30 pm. Don’t miss it!
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Edward P. Fiscella
July 20-28, 2012
Mainstage Center for the Arts
Camden County College
Dennis Flyer Theatre
200 College Drive
Blackwood, NJ 08012