Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed and Choreographed by Lora Chase
Musical Direction by Meri-Lee Mafera Sets Designed by Ronald L. Dion
Costumes designed by Richard Itczak
Lighting and Sound Designed by Brian Purdy
Stage Manager John Murtagh

Narrator........................Kerry Dowling McInnes
Jacob/ Potiphar.......................Joshua Kehrberg
Reuben.................................Michael Duarte
Simeon.....................................Jay Dzigas
Levi......................................Chuck Walsh
Napthali.............................Daniel J. Rabone
Isaachar/Ishmaelite.......................Nathan Fogg
Asher.....................................Jason Woolf
Dan..................................Scott W. Sevigny
Zebulon..............................Scott W. Sevigny
Gad/Baker..............................Peter E. Allen
Joseph................................Richard Repetta
Mrs. Potiphar...........................Pauline Marie
Pharaoh/Ishmaelite.....................Kevin Coughlin
WOMEN'S CHORUS
Lynda D'Amour, Tammi Fletcher, Kristie Krabe,
Marci Smith, Britta Elisabeth Priest
CHILDREN
Scott Chaloff, Amy Lareau, Teddy Crecelius, Lisa Lareau, Jamie Flanagan, Jennifer Leland, Jason Gaffney, Eliza Levy, Rachel Katz, Peter Shields, Carrie Krieger. Audrey White,
Jacob Aaron, Joanna Lovett, Talia Abrahams, Pearl O'Brien, Laura Brodin, Matthew Phillips, Carra Cheslin, Emily Vanderburg, Andy Eklund, Anna Ziering

Piano/Conductor...........................Meri-Lee Mafera
Drums.........................................Tim Maynard
Guitar......................................Carl Phillips
Trumpets..........................Ken Grady, David Baxter


I cannot take "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" seriously. It was made originally to be done by Sunday School kids, breathing new life into the Bible story by clothing it in popular music and relating it to contemporary life. Those first kids must have had a ball, but Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber who made it got so famous people kept dusting it off, and since it was a small thing they had to add lots of glitz and more and more spectacle to make any money out of of it, until it was too Las Vegas to be believed.. Luckily though, no one out at the Turtle Lane Playhouse takes it seriously either, so the original tongue-in-cheek fun of it all shines through.

Of course there is still a lot of boring, repetitive Andrew Lloyd Webber music here, into which Tim Rice's lyrics often get crammed with no thought to their sense or their shape, and a lot of flat sprecht-stimme (or "wretched-tatif") turning narrative into singsong. This was a mine from which this master often stole throughout his career, after all, and a lot of his later, more famous cliches still echo through this score.

But the game here was to tell old tales in new melodies, and so Joseph's eleven lying brothers tell of his "death" in a syrupy cowboy-music send-up ("One More Angel in Heaven"), and later defend poor Benjamin from a charge of thievery in a limbo-laced calypso turn, while Pharaoh is an Elvis like-a-look right down to "One More Time!" This was written before Sir Andrew forgot how to write songs, and the theme that begins and ends the show --- "Any Dream Will Do" --- brings the message of the story up to date.

Director/Choreographer Lora Chase has decked the whole with a lot of witty Egyptian-pose choreography for her 22-member cast, and --- as is usual in Turtyle Lane productions --- given everyone individual moments, each shining bit making the mosaic whole. Richard Itczak's costumes are fun, taking advantage of the theatrical smile and make-believe the show uses to make the story fun. And everything is done before simple sketches in Ronald L. Dion's sets thatcomment on the scene without glitzing it to death. The Egyptian deserts, for instance, are evoked not with sphinxes and pyramids, but with Nevada cacti, while the "heavenly chorus" of cherub-like children stand stage-right in sky-blue columns with cut-out clouds.

One of the good things about Turtle Lane is that the general level of competence and imagination are high; the bad thing is that, save for the initial letters of their names and a few who sing specific songs or have program-credits for bits, it's hard for a reviewer to say who did what well. Joshua Kehrberg, however, bowed wearing Father Jacob's white beard and the headdress of Potiphar, Michael Duarte (Rubin), Chuck Walsh (Levi) and Daniel J. Rabone (Napthali) got to sing solos, and Pauline Marie was a sizzlingly sexy Potiphar's wife whom no one but God's chosen could have resisted. And God's chosen, Richard Repetta, has a boyish smile is the soul of eager innocence that makes Joseph's insufferable smugness bearable and a winning way with his songs.

The kids in the heavenly choir are both disciplined and winsome --- another Turtle Lane tradition. Kerry Dowling McInnes narrates the story more to the audience than to them here, and her fine voice occasionally gets to shine. But all too often Sir Andrew crams lovely Tim Rice lyrics willy-nilly into the "Ta-Da, Da-Da, Ta-DaDedem; Ya Ta, Ya Ta, yatittleDoip!" melody that is repeated ad infinitim, ad nauseum, ad maxima nauseum, which is his fault not hers.

Kevin Coughlin's Pharaoh does stop the show, but not with the hammy overplaying so many force on the part. Instead, his Elvis/Pharaoh borrows just enough of that singer's mannerisms to make the comparison with the despot that much more droll.

Of course, as a musical instead of a Sunday School turn, the show has no big-finish finale --- and repetitions aren't encores. Until they start chewing their cabbage twice the Turtle Lane Players look great. But then, it's when Sir Andew does chew his cabbage twice that it begins to look like under his thin veneer there's only another thin veneer. For most of the evening, this production saves him from himself.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark)

"Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (till 26 October, 26 - 30 December)
TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
283 Melrose Street, NEWTON
1(617)244-0169
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