It’s taken me twenty-eight years to see my first production of 1982’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (and even longer if you count the show’s pre-Broadway incarnations), and now, having finally experienced the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical on the great big stage of the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, it’s rainbow clear to me why the Joseph has become an international phenomenon. The show is one hundred minutes of pure, unadulterated, Technicolor music and fun.
More specifically, this kids-friendly adaptation of the Genesis tale of Jacob’s son Joseph and his “coat of many colors” is a delectably eclectic blend of pop music genres and eras, almost entirely sung through, and ecumenical enough to entertain audiences of any religious (or non-religious) persuasion.
Directed with abundant pizzazz by Broadway Joseph vet Ron Kellum, this CLOSBC production stars Eric Kunze as Joseph, whose multicolored coat, a gift from his father (Paul Ainsley), so enrages his eleven jealous brothers that they sell him into slavery in Egypt. Once there, his ability to interpret dreams makes him second-in-command to Pharaoh (Robert J. Townsend). When famine strikes the land, Joseph’s starving brothers head off towards Egypt in search of food where who should they meet but _____. You guessed it, that is if you don’t already know the story from Sunday School.
Speaking of which, Lloyd Webber and Rice have written Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as one bright and bubbly Sunday School lesson, taught to a couple dozen onstage children by the show’s glamorous Narrator (Kelli Provart) who tells and observes Joseph’s story, and occasionally participates in the action.
There’s no better belter around than the gorgeous Provart, who adds a Wynonna-esque country flavor to the Narrator’s “Jacob And Sons,” “Poor, Poor Joseph,” and other Lloyd Webber tunes.
As for Joseph, the equally gorgeous and talented (and Ovation-nominated for CLOSBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar) Kunze is a perfect choice to bring to him to bare-torsoed life. Kunze’s “Close Every Door” is Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s most dramatic number and one of its most thrillingly performed.
Lloyd Webber and Rice use the Joseph story as a springboard for a veritable rainbow of musical genres, a dazzling variety of styles which give showcase moments to many members of the all-around couldn’t-be-better cast.
“One More Angel In Heaven” has eldest bro Reuben (Danny Stiles) twanging in his best country-cowboy mode. In the Charleston-flavored “Potiphar,” Potiphar (Ainsley) amusingly channels a 1920s Rudy Vallee. “Go, Go, Go Joseph” features the Pharaoh’s Baker (Jeremiah Lowder) and Butler (Jeffrey Landman) and the rest of the cast in groovy 1960s fashions executing those boss dance moves from the swingin’ ‘60s. “Song Of The King (Seven Fat Cows)” introduces a Vegas Elvis-coiffed Pharaoh (a scene-stealing, hip-swiveling Townsend) about as all shook up as they come. The plaintive “Those Canaan Days,” features Simeon (Andrew McCay) as a chansonnier français (think Aznavour crossed with Chevalier) seguewaying into a très sexy apache dance performed to sensuous perfection by Jason DeRoest and Jennifer Brasuell. And guess which musical genre gets spoofed by Judah (Ty Taylor) in “Benjamin Calypso.” Most of these numbers feature fabulous choreography by Johnny Dean Harvey and Chad Everett Allen, making auspicious CLOSBC debuts.
Completing the Broadway-ready band of brothers are Dane Biren as Benjamin, Leland Burnett as Levi, dance captain DeRoest as Zebulon, Jay Donnell as Napthali, Andrew Johnson as Asher, Landman as Gad, Lowder as Issachar, and Mike A. Motroni as Gad.
The equally fabulous singing/dancing female ensemble is made up of Meki Blackwell, Hannah Bornstein, Heather Castillo (Mrs. Potiphar), Stephanie Burkett Gerson, Katie DeShan, Janelle Dote, Jenny Rose Hobbs-Hutzler, Jessie Lee, Melissa Mitchell, Rachel Scott, and Jenna Wright.
The delightful child performers who spend most of the show on stage (though they do exit during Mrs. Potiphar’s attempted seduction of Joseph) are Ava Bergman, Brianna Black, Andrew Brown, Benjamin Brown, Marlow Curran, Elise DiPaola, Kaylee Hernandez, Hannah Hubbard, Elliot Kang, Austin Kelly, Jeannie Mai, Maggie Rose McDougall, Terren Mueller, Fiona Okida, Annie Ortiz, Kayla Ortiz, Emma Parkinson, Emily Stager, Mindy Truman, Paul Viggiano, Jr., Sophia Viggiano, Erin Walker.
Musical director Dennis Castellano conducts the outstanding 14-piece CLOSBC orchestra. Darrell J. Clark’s lighting is every bit as bright and colorful as the FCLO Music Theatre set (adapted by Christopher Beyries) and Christa Armendariz’s dazzling variety of multi-era/genre costumes deserve. John Feinstein’s crystal clear sound design completes the Broadway Tour-caliber design package.
As CLOSBC’s lone dance-heavy large-ensemble show of its scaled-down 2010 season, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is must-see entertainment for those who prefer their musicals BIG. Fast-moving and fun, this early Lloyd Webber hit is destined to keep audiences of all ages entertained from its opening notes to the exhilarating eight-minute “Joseph Megamix” singing/dancing grand finale.
CLO of South Bay Cities, Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Redondo Beach. Through May 9. Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00. Saturday matinees at 2:00 on May 1 and 8. Sunday matinees at 2:00 on May 2 and 9. Sunday evenings at 7:00 on May 2 and 9. Reservations: 310 372-4477 www.civiclightopera.com