Go, Go, Go Joseph!

May 4, 2019

 

 

     “Being told we’re also-rans does not make us Joseph fans!” lament the eleven alienated sons of widower Jacob. And when the twelfth son, Joseph, is given the iconic coat of many colors, they realize that he is the special one, and something needs to be done. The 50 year old Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is currently unfurling in a Center Stage Production at the Midland Center for the Arts Little Theatre.

This Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) musical is based somewhat faithfully on Chapter 39 of Genesis. It began as a 15 minute end of the year school choir concert, written for a teacher friend in London in 1968, and eventually made its way to Broadway for 747 performances in 1982-83.

Director Stephen Fort’s main challenge was how to make this beloved familiar work fresh and new again.  The two forces which drive the evening’s entertainment are the vocals and the set (designed by Evan Lewis), the centerpiece of which is this enormous multi-level revolving pyramid with sprinkles of Art Deco here and there.

Jantz Black (Music Director) and a nine piece orchestra  provide the audience with 90 minutes (plus a 20 minute intermission) of flat out bouncy joy and fun!  Their efforts remind us of the catchy lyrics and the jaunty tunes that so many remember from their first encounter with this piece.

             The three narrators (Grace Johnson, Sara Groth, and Katie Crombe) --- each in a distinctive 1930s style red, yellow, or blue dress--- enter and set the vocal tone for the entire night by nailing the Prologue, “You Are What You Feel”, through their dynamic command of the lyrics. They clearly sing the lyrics throughout the production to tell the story; so crucial since there is very little spoken word.

Enter Joseph (high school senior Nick Alfano)! This young man’s powerful voice consistently radiated throughout the show, especially in “Close Every Door” and “Who’s the Thief?”

After the rousing “Joseph’s Coat” number, the ticked-off brothers hatch a plan to rid themselves of Jacob’s favorite son. Off he goes to Egypt after some deception played on their father, Jacob (Cody Prout), involving the said coat.

Pharaoh (Marci Rogers) ultimately discovers that Joseph has a gift---he can interpret dreams! From there the story builds to Joseph having his “revenge” on his brothers and finding out the fate of Jacob.

The eight member Youth Ensemble sang remarkably well! They were a reminder that this was originally a children’s show, and, for the most part, still is!

Various styles of dance and song are incorporated from beginning to end:  jazz, power ballads, calypso, western, rock, disco, and even a small tango. This variety makes for an enjoyable time.

Costume Designer Crystal Wilkerson-Diaz used earth tones (browns, whites, grays), 1930s styles, cowboy outfits, French berets, sequined gowns, suits, and tuxedos to give it an “updated” look that put a different spin on the production. Pay attention to the “Pharaoh Girls” as they constantly change costumes. Fun! “One More Angel in Heaven/Hoedown” and “Those Canaan Days” make the best use of apropos costuming. I noticed that ironically Potiphar’s wife is wearing colors which do not reflect her promiscuous nature.

Kelli Jolly’s choreography matches the action effectively. Look for clever Narrator bits, especially during “Pharaoh’s Story.”

This is an exceptional production with extraordinary singing and set transitions!  The two best numbers of the production are “One More Angel” and the show stopping “Those Canaan Days” Everything worked: costumes, set, choreography, singing, emoting.

The coat of many colors is almost like another character. There is a big surprise concerning this garment, which one could argue should have been done at a different place in the show. You be the judge.

The Butler (Brad Phillips) has an outstanding voice! His solo parts in “Poor, Poor Pharaoh/Song of the King” show how one can shine in a supporting role.

Alfano’s best solo is  “Any Dream Will Do.” When he sits down with the excellent Youth Ensemble and performs this, it’s another reminder of the hopeful tone and the spirit of youth of this opera.

Set transitions were outstanding and fascinating to watch. The merging of the revolving pyramid with cast members walking to the next scene is a unique experience. Natalie Slawnyk’s costume change into Potiphar’s wife as the set was revolving is not to be missed! Kudos to Fort for this enthralling inspiration.

The second act is particularly strong with extremely powerful vocals. Also, what happens after the curtain call is not to be missed! The energy in that sequence is amazing!

Constructive criticisms:   Sound mix was off during “Jacob and Sons” as it was difficult to hear the names of each brother as they were shouted out. Narrators were grouped together; I understand why as you want them to be unified. However, they could have been spread out at times. Some familiar with the show might not like some of the unusual costuming. Traditional garb versus the updates is always an engrossing discussion. Pharaoh could have interacted with the audience more as would befit the character being interpreted.

A sensory friendly performance (lower light and sound levels, and other accommodations) for those with special needs is scheduled for the 3:00 pm matinee on Saturday, May 11. More details can be found on this link: https://www.mcfta.org/PDFlinks/SensoryFriendlyJoseph.pdf

Joseph is a magical fun time. Go, go, go, go experience it!

 

Ticket Prices:  $33 Adult / $26 Student

Performance Dates:

Saturday, May 4, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Sunday, May 5, 2019 – 3:00 pm

Thursday, May 9, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Friday, May 10, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Saturday, May 11, 2019 – 3:00 pm (sensory friendly performance)

Saturday, May 11, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Sunday, May 12, 2019 – 3:00 pm

Thursday, May 16, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Friday, May 17, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Saturday, May 18, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Sunday, May 19, 2019 – 3:00 pm

Box Office:  (989) 631-8250

 

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