Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Also see Gil's recent review of Gloria
Joseph is based on the Old Testament Bible story of Joseph, a dreamer who faces jealousy and betrayal from his 11 brothers after their father gives him a beautiful multi-colored coat. Since Joseph is Jacob's favorite son, the brothers decide to sell Joseph to not only get rid of him but also as a way to hope to make his dream of ruling over them not come true. While the plot may be minimal and somewhat predictable, ABT's production infuses the story with freshness and vitality. Also, the narrative's universal themes of family, forgiveness, and redemption resonate with modern audiences.
The sung-through musical, created by the duo of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, received a significant boost when it was expanded in 1991 with a megamix that rehashes the show's main songs in a high energy finale. Lloyd Webber and Rice's work on Joseph marked the beginning of a successful partnership and the pair would go on to produce other iconic musicals, such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. The catchy score blends a wide range of musical styles, from pop to country, including two ballads, "Close Every Door" and "Any Dream Will Do," which showcase Rice's simple yet effective lyrics and the sweeping melodies of Lloyd Webber.
Director Ken Urso has done wonderful work with this production. The cast deliver clear, rich, and comical (when appropriate) portrayals, and Urso's directorial vision is solid. Setting the show inside a section of a history museum, where all of the exhibits relate to the story of Joseph, and having the narrator of the musical dressed as a museum tour guide and the children's chorus playing a school group who are visiting the museum that the narrator tells the story to, provides a refreshing take on this classic musical in which every directorial decision makes complete sense.
The cast are all excellent. Andrew Natale Ruggieri is warm and winning as Joseph, with clear vocals and lots of charisma, bringing the character vibrantly to life. His solo of "Close Every Door" is particularly moving. The character of the Narrator serves as the show's storyteller and Jazmin Noel Moehring is excellent in how she interacts with the cast as she comments on the events of the story, which also actively participating in the narrative; her natural connection to the children in the chorus is excellent. Moehring's wide vocal range adds dimension to her songs, with her pop-rock wails especially effective.
The strong supporting cast shine with memorable solos, lively performances, and energetic dancing. Noah A. Lyon's Elvis-inspired Pharaoh adds a touch of humor and energy to the show, while Elliott Scott Smith, Tyler Gallaher, and Stone Matthews Snowden stand out as three of Joseph's brothers, delivering impressive solos throughout the musical. As Joseph's youngest brother Benjamin, Charlie Hall brings a lovely sense of innocence to the show, and Pete Clapsis is warm as Jacob. The ensemble look like they are having a blast as they constantly change costumes from one character to the next and deliver high energy singing and dancing. The children's choir (there are two different ones that alternate performances) not only sing beautifully but are incorporated effectively into the story while always being engaged with the characters and plot.
Lynzee Foreman provides spirited and varied choreography that is excellent. It is lively, fun, and always appropriate for the various musical styles in the score. Mark Foreman's music direction is wonderful, with gorgeous vocals and harmonies from the cast, and his original music tracks are rich and vibrant. Jamie Hohendorf-Parnell's set and prop designs make great use of ABT's large LED screen, with colorful video and still images that whisk us from the museum setting back to Biblical times. The set combines with Bret Reese's lighting to provide constantly changing, colorful stage images. The costumes by Tamara Wright are bright, fun, and period appropriate.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a humorous yet heartfelt and energetic retelling of the story of Joseph with the overarching lesson of jealousy and forgiveness which remains universally relatable. With fantastic direction, a sublime cast, and wonderful creative aspects, Arizona Broadway Theatre's production is visually stunning, gorgeously sung, and a whole heck of a lot of fun.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs through November 4, 2023, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.azbroadway.org call 623-776-8400.
Director: Ken Urso
Cast: (in order of appearance)