By Beki Pineda
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics by Tim Rice. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe Ave.) through Aug. 19. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or www.bdtstage.com.
While JOSEPH was the second show to be written by the team of Webber and Rice, it took as many forms as Josephs coat has colors before arriving at its final script. First presented as a 15-minute pop piece in 1968, it gained additional songs and scenes as it grew in popularity and potential. It expanded to 35 minutes and then became a concept album. Its current form took shape in time for the West End production in 1973 and the Broadway run in 1982. In the nearly 50 years since its inception, the Really Useful Company (Webbers publishing company, which holds the rights) has authorized nearly 20,000 productions.
This current production at BDT Stage also has historical significance. BDT Stage (in its former life as Boulders Dinner Theatre) opened its doors in 1977 (BEFORE the Broadway run!) with a production of JOSEPHstarring the current BDTs very own Michael J. Duran in the lead role. The current cast includes 20 returning veterans and one brother making his BDT debut. The loyalty of BDT to its corps of singer/dancers is inspiring and allows them to put together great casts, no matter the number or the ages required for the script. Its always fun to visit and see which regulars are playing what roles.
In this production, longtime favorite Tracy Warren takes on the crucial role of the Narrator whose expository songs tell the story and move it from scene to scene. Jack Barton (formerly Peter in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER) returns to play a carefree Joseph, while veteran Wayne Kennedy plays both Jacob, Josephs father, and Potiphar the Egyptian. Having way too much fun is Scott Severtson, who doubles as one of the brothers and the Elvis-like Pharoah. Each of the 11 brothers develops a unique personality, making it fun to watch the group numbers as each characters individuality is expressed. This cast of regulars is supplemented by a rotating childrens choir of 16 young singerssome with familiar last names as they sing with Mom or Dad on stage.
When a script is as familiar to seasoned theatergoers as this one is, a director must stretch his imagination to make it new and fresh. Director/choreographer Matthew D. Peters does just that by creating a more urban look to this desert tale. Instead of the usual wide-swinging cape, this Joseph gets a true coat quilted together from many colored patches. The hues are repeated later in color-blocked costumes that are similar yet unique to each dancer, and in the scarves they use to illustrate the variety of Josephs Coat. As Peters remarked, he was channeling his inner Michael Jackson. The crisp, clean, angular lines of the dances (think Rich Mans Frug from SWEET CHARITY) were evidently influenced by Jackson, Bob Fosse and other contemporary choreographers. Let me just say Scott Beyette does a mean moonwalk.
While it seems that the Rice/Webber team threw every kind of music possible into this script, strangely enough, it all works. You get the jubilant, gospel-like Josephs Coat, the Western charm of One More Angel in Heaven, the Apache dancers in Those Canaan Days, the calypso magic of Benjamins song, and the earworm ballad Any Dream Will Do. Interspersed between these are storytelling songs that move the Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers’ separation and reconciliation along to a successful conclusion.
While the show is performed on a simple set with three staircases leading to a small stage above the main stage, the lighting by Brett Maughan creates a Broadway-like atmosphere with special effects and backlighting to add to the humor of the piece. The costumes designed by Linda Morken enhance the modern urban feel of the production.
This is BDTs summer production, so you have until Aug. 19 to get over and see their new show. No excuses!
WOW factor: 9